THE BALLAD OF ANNIE GRAY (Poetry Monthly)
A fair young maiden sat and wept
Upon the forest floor;
The hot tears fell until she slept
For she could weep no more.
She tossed and turned in troubled sleep
And cursed the very name
Of the cruel swain who’d made her weep
And brought her to such shame.
All through the night the cold winds howled
And by the light of dawn
In fear and pain she screamed out loud
As her little son was born.
Softly she kissed his golden head
And skin as smooth as silk –
But, alas, she saw the boy was dead
And would never taste her milk.
Two days she clasped him to her breast,
Not mindful of foul weather
Until at last, she was at rest
And closed her eyes for ever.
They lay beneath an old oak tree
Which sighed at the sad sight
Of a young girl and her sweet baby -
No shroud to warm their plight
‘Twas not yet autumn, but in his grief
For the infant and the mother
The oak shed every single leaf
To cover them right over.
They found them both when Christmas came;
In unholy ground they laid them,
Wronged maid and baby with no name -
For the church, it would not have them.
A hundred years or more have passed
And folks in those parts still say
When the cold wind whistles through the wood
‘That’s the ghost of Annie Gray’.