All ready to preach the black devil away.
Yea, devils are there, more than they opine.
Even one under every gabardine;
And there is a crowd of every degree:
The urchins, all laughing with mirth and glee;
And pipers and jangleurs might there be seen,
And cummers and mummers in red and green,
All cheery and merry and void of care,
As if they were going to Rumbollow Fair.
Ho! yonder comes from the emptying town
A crowd of five thousand all rushing down;
They hurry, they scurry, they buzz, they brize,
And all to see this witch in a blaze.
Deep in the midst of the jubilant throng
A harmless woman is hurried along,—
She is weary, and wheezing for lack of breath,
And o’er all her face is the pallor of death;
And she says, as they push her, in grim despair,
“Ye needna hurry yoursel’s sae sair—
Nae sport there will be till I am there."[A]
[Footnote A: These words are the old tradition which has been handed down in Dundee for generations.]
They have doffed her clothes till all but stark;
They have tied her with ropes in her cutty sark;
They have torn the snood from her silvery hair,
And her locks they fall on her shoulders bare,
Or stream in the cold and piercing breeze
Blowing muggy and moist from the eastern seas.
Hush! silence is over all that crowd,
Then an echoing shout both long and loud;
The fagots flare up with a lurid glare—
In the middle shines bright that white figure there,
Like those sad spirits of endless woe
’Midst eternal fires in the shades below!
There lances and glances each long-pronged fork,[A]
As through the wild flames it is quick at work,
Till the red blood squirts and seethes and sings,
As through the red flame each squirtlet springs,
The flames lap round her like forked levin;
The priests send up their prayers to heaven;
But what these prayers are to do when there,
It is likely they could not themselves declare
Yet all this while, in her agony,
She made no murmur, she uttered no cry,
As if she would show by a silent ban
Her scorn of the great wise creature Man.
Lo! the pole breaks over with creaking crash,
The body falls down in the flaming mass;
Up a cloud of sparks with a flesh-burnt smell
Rises and swirls like vomit of hell.
[Footnote A: There is in the records of the town the account of the expenses attending the execution, and the sums in Scots money paid for the tar barrels, and for prickers’ fees, etc.]