The Witch’s Warning
by Theodora Goss
This ground is cursed. I would leave it,
if I were a man, as you are:
leave the moss-overgrown
stones that bound the estate,
leave the damp of the hollow,
leave the hill where a scar
reminds you that penance is needed,
even if proffered late.
You will not listen to me,
to the woman with rain in the tangles
of hair escaping her kerchief
who watches with answerless eyes.
You ride, young lord, through the shadows
of immemorial beeches:
all yours, all yours, but I’d leave them,
young lord, if you were wise.
Ride to the white mausoleum
where your ancestors wait to receive you,
ride past the marshy expanses
where frogs make ominous sounds,
ride passed the ruined hillside
without a notion of pity,
without remorse, to the manor,
satisfied with your rounds.
The tree that stood on that hillside
was older than this structure,
older than your right here
or your family’s name.
All your ancestors shivered
at the fall of that timber,
whose trunk is hewn for a pleasure-house,
whose branches roast your game.
Go to the church with the steeple
and sleep among downy pillows;
the gods that are older than boundaries
are opening up their eyes.
They meet in the damp of the hollow,
they dance on the marshy expanses
where their feet make no dint on the turf
and the air seems filled with sighs.
You would leave, young lord, you would leave here,
if you, like me, were wise.
(The image is The West Wind by Walter Crane. This poem appeared, in a slightly different form, in my collection Songs for Ophelia.)