David Lewis Paget
The Bell Tower
The Italian village, Viternium
Sits down in a bee-loud glade,
It once was a stop on the way to Rome
Where the men of the Legions played,
The women had still the come-hither eyes
That the soldiers from colder climes,
Once left behind in their sweet forays
With the girls who were drunk with wine.
The vineyards trailed up the mountainside
As they’d done for two thousand years,
The grapes the same for the wine that came
To be used by the Holy Church,
The myths and legends lay thick round there
With the superstitious folk,
Who hurried on home to bar the doors
That were made from Italian oak.
Then after the evening meal was done
And the men lay down to rest,
The women knelt by an altar piece
And prayed that their home was blessed,
They listened hard for the ghostly bell
That would tell when the demons come,
It hadn’t been heard for a hundred years,
No bell in Viternium!
But when the ground would rumble and shake
As it did, every now and then,
The shelves would rattle, the houses quake
And the children cry in the pen,
They’d tell each other that age old tale
Of the tower that stood on the hill,
A blackened tower of ancient stone
That was home to a monstrous bell.
They said that the mountain closed on it
In the mightiest quake of all,
But fifteen generations had passed
Since the mountain swallowed it all,
But then, the winter was coming on
And the quakes began too soon,
The ground was rumbling every day,
And into the afternoon.
The clouds were gathering black and grey
As the thunder rolled off the hill,
The ground beneath them shuddered and swayed
With a roar like the hounds of Hell.
The mountain burst with a mighty crack
And debris flew through the air,
And when the tumult had stopped at last
They saw that the tower was there!
A tower black from an ancient fire
And a bell, beginning to toll,
It rang on down through the valley, put
A shiver in every soul,
They saw that the bell-rope rose and fell
With nobody there to ring,
But still the bell continued to toll
For the folk of Viternium.
The elders thought that a sacrifice
Might appease the gods of old,
Took a Signorina virgin, then
Adorned her with marigolds,
They led her up to the blackened tower
While her mother shrieked to drop,
Tied the bell-rope around her neck
And prayed that the bell would stop!
The rope rose up and it took the girl
Then dropped and it rose again,
The girl was dead by the second drop,
At least she wasn’t in pain,
But still the bell in the blackened tower
Rocked back and forth in the rack,
Tolling the bell in an ancient spell
For the Legions to come back.
The village is overgrown today
And the vines grow wild on the hill,
The cottages have collapsed, they say
Destroyed by the tolling bell,
There’s not a man nor a woman there
For the place is known as ‘Hell! ’
While a virgin girl swings up and down
In time to the tolling bell.
31 March 2013
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