Lady Howard of Tavistock

I’m Mary with a story, which many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who condemn us all to hell

My own tale is a cursed one, that’s told from days of yore
Five hundred long years I’ve travelled, across the wild Dartmoor
In a ghostly ghastly carriage made from the bones of six dead men
It carries me nightly and forever to Oakhampton and home again
Betwixt the strike of midnight and the dawn’s first cock’rel crow
From Fitzford House near Tavistock to Oak Castle I must go
To carry out my penance and fetch forth one blade of grass
Until the lush green mound is bare, my curse will never pass

I’ll begin at the beginning, with the bones of him died first
John Fitz once Lord of Fitzford House, our home now with me cursed
Daddy John inherited a vast fortune, but our fortune was brief
It drove him insane and set my path: an eternity of grief
The Fitzford wealth it earnt him, more enemies than silver groats
He killed friend and foe, his craz’d mind hooked on slitting rivals’ throats
Those who spill it they soon come to learn, blood can’t be washed with gold
I found him slashed by his own hand, I’m an orphan, nine years old

I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who send us all to hell

Alone, young, rich and female, I need protecting from false claims
How naïve to think my earthly saviour could ever be righteous King James
Pious bastard sold me like a chattel to the Earl of Northumberland
Was only a child when he tired of me and gave his brother my wedded hand
As abused and trapped and frightened as the poor creatures he hunted for glory
I beseeched Mother Earth and all of her beasts to remove him from my story
Nature is red in tooth and claw, soon horn and hoof his gizzards gore
Hunter is hunted and dead man two, I’m your prey no more

I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who drive us all to hell

I ran away with my sweetheart, married in secret to fair Thomas
My life it finally felt full of hope, future brimming with such promise
But you’ve guessed by now that this isn’t a tale where happiness will last
Just a few months of joy ‘til tragedy when my one true love he passed
The pain and grieving will never stop for my dead man who went third
Was still in black weeds and just sixteen when forced to wed John Howard
Hid from him my every penny: “Sir do you not love me poor?”
This stayed as unknown as the causes of death of this dead man number four

I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who take us all to hell

I rue the day I met my final husband Sir Richard Grenville
Used fire and fists to harm me, locked me up against my will
Star Chamber found him vile and violent sent him straight to Lydford Gaol
On escaping he revelled in torment and terror on a far much larger scale
When brother turned against brother and England she was bleeding
‘Twas turncoat Rich warred for both sides as General and was leading
Parliament ‘gainst Royals and vice versa ’til no troops were left alive
This traitor, skellum, Gren-villain is the bones of dead man five

I’m Mary with a story that many a girl could tell,
Of the men you love, and those you don’t, who doom us all to hell

I’m way past the point of white weddings now, I’ll only take a lover
Although as a wife I’ve truly failed, I try and be a better mother
Head home to Tavistock with George my boy, but me and luck don’t mix
The Fates they deal my last mortal blow and make him dead man six
My heart and earthly body breaks, soul taken, no longer my own
I’m cast as a black widow, with a black dog to match, in a carriage made from bone

Betwixt the strike of midnight and the dawn’s first cock’rel crow
From Fitzford House near Tavistock to Oak Castle I must go
To carry out my penance and fetch forth one blade of grass
Until the lush green mound is bare, my curse will never pass

Legend is not kind to females, especially when bold, brave and beautiful
It warns all girls throughout all time to be decent, dull and dutiful
I’m a women with a story, but aren’t all our sex damned as well?
Leave those men and your life behind you my dear, come and ride with me to hell…

anna jones ©2017

http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/discovering/legends/lady_howard.shtml

 

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