Joseph Porter


Another folk legend bites the dust. Who's next, now we've done for Lord Barnard and the Raggle Taggle Gypsy?

It was late one night and ten years past since the day he'd seen his lady last
When the coachman called and he said My Lord
There's a woman come begging at the back stairs door
She's waiting now in the servant's hall and in her arms is a black-haired baby

Her face once fine is pinched and thin she's dressed like a leper with her cheeks sunk in
Her lank stringy hair is matted and grey she says she's come here to the hall to stay
She smells like a badger and she won't go away and she swears she's your Lordship's lady

So he came down the winding stair his face set hard when he spied her there
With the babe in her arms that hollered and bawled
And her bare feet worn from her ten year walk
She fell to her knees on the hard stone floor crying Lord now don't forsake me

Whack-fol-a-day the merry musings of the harp and the violin played
So we danced 'til the break of day to the rhythm
Whack-fol-a-day went the music to our hearts as the melodies strayed

He said you left such a long time ago your goose feather bed grew hard and cold
As you stirred his pots and stoked his fires, you lived in a ditch and you bore his child
When you spread your legs to the call of the wild with a knife to the heart you betrayed me

But I'll make you a deal to settle the score and wipe the slate clean once and for all
If you would return to my house once more you must kill the black-haired babe you bore
Then with all my militiamen armed for war to the gypsies you must take me

She gave her word and we watched amazed as she borrowed a mop from the scullery maid
She took the babe and stopped its mouth 'til its struggling ceased and its cries gave out
And My Lord said lay welcome now to honour me forever and obey me

They rode not East and took no rest for the lady led them South by West
Til they smelled the smoke and spied the lamps and fell like a hammer on the gypsy camp
And My Lord to the fore as the troop advanced said I swear not a soul will escape me

They laid waste and they made sport nor paused for breath 'til they'd killed them all
Revenge is sweet My Lord opined seasoned with the bitterness of passing time
You had your fun now I've had mine and there's none whatsoever that will blame me

So North by East they returned to the hall by fern and bracken by marsh and moor
Until at last from the manor house through the gloom
The lights shone bright from a hundred rooms
And His Lordship's smile was a crack of doom on his face as he spoke to the lady

He said the woman I love lies asleep upstairs I'll go to my room now and find her there
But they'll make you a bed on a pallet of straw to bicker and squabble in the servant's hall
As you wash my linen and scrub my floors and take your punishment daily