Treasure Island

David Lewis Paget

(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Barley Stooks


There’s a silence out in the fields tonight
Where the barley sheaves are stooked,
Their shadows stand in a menacing line
While the wives at home are spooked,
They peer from windows, they peer from doors
And they lock their shutters tight,
There isn’t a man in the valley’s span
For they didn’t come home tonight.

They left their cottages there at dawn
As the sun was on the rise,
Wandered out with their ploughman’s lunch
And rubbed the sleep from their eyes,
They carried their sickles across their backs
Their fagging hooks and their flails,
And who could read took a crumpled book
To read with a half of ale.

They bent their backs to the task ahead
Of reaping the sheaves of grain,
The clouds were billowing overhead
And they said, ‘It looks like rain! ’
The sun went in and the sun came out
As the shadows flitted across,
They stooked the sheaves at an angle so
The rain would drain from the crops.

The rain held off ‘til the afternoon
When the men were streaked with sweat,
They sheltered under the Sycamores,
Laid down their tools in the wet,
The wives were busily cleaning homes,
Preparing the worker’s tea,
They didn’t look out to the barley field
‘Til the sun dipped into the sea.

They didn’t look, it was almost dusk
When they noticed something wrong,
The men would usually come back home,
They’d hear them, singing a song,
A silence settled upon the land
And the wives came out to stare,
But nothing moved in the barley field,
The men were just not there.

Their faces white in the pale moonlight
The wives sat still, and stared,
The stooks were seeming to move about
And the women, they were scared,
The stooks lined up in the barley field
Like a pack of hooded ghouls,
And lying right in the midst of them
Was a heap of reaping tools.

There’s a silence out in the fields tonight
Where the barley sheaves are stooked,
Their shadows stand in a menacing line
While the wives at home are spooked,
They peer from windows, they peer from doors
And they lock their shutters tight,
There isn’t a man in the valley’s span
For they didn’t come home tonight.

25 February 2014

Submitted: Monday, February 24, 2014
Edited: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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