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(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

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The Duke of Beck

I thought the cottage was rather cheap,
I said so at the time,
It was standing empty far too long
For a setting, so sublime,
The garden was overgrown, of course
And it needed a little care,
But nobody thought to warn us then
Of what we’d find in there.

It looked down over a tiny cove
With a path down over the cliff,
Where the sea surged into an inland cave
As the tide began to lift,
The wind howled in, and it echoed out
Of the blowhole at the top,
Just fifty yards from the cottage with
A hundred metre drop.

We worked on it in the summer
Trimmed the cypress back in shape,
Controlled the vine that wrapped itself
Around the garden gate,
We fixed the holes and patched the walls
And gave it a coat of paint,
And scraped the moss off the rear wall
Where the damp had left its taint.

We moved on in when the winter’s chill
Rose up the cliff from the cove,
I put a match to the firewood
I’d bundled into the stove,
But Mavourneen was the first to feel
There was something in the air,
‘I get this prickling feeling that
Runs through the roots of my hair.’

I said, ‘It must be your Irish,
All your superstitions and tales, ’
She said, ‘You’re never the one to talk,
With your witches covens in Wales.’
And presently, sure, I began to feel
There was something there not right,
I heard the creaking of timbers there
In the eaves, most every night.

The storms began in their fury, and
The rain beat down on the roof,
I lay awake ‘til I thought to slake
My sleep with forty proof,
But Mavourneen would get up and prowl
When the storm was at its height,
‘I saw a man in the garden! ’ She
Came in, and her face was white.

I rose and went outside in the storm,
Walked round the cottage twice,
Came in a-shiver, and soaked to the skin
My hands and feet like ice.
‘There’s no-one there, ’ I muttered aloud,
But Mavourneen just stared,
For standing, dripping with seaweed was
A sailor with jet black hair.

‘You have to come, ’ said the spectral form,
‘The wreck is deep in the cave,
They’re stranded down in the blowhole, and
There’s women and kin to save.’
And then he suddenly faded, turned
And walked back into the wall,
I had to reach out for Mavourneen
As she swayed, and started to fall.

I didn’t go out again that night,
I sat, curled up in a funk,
And Mavourneen said, ‘You should have gone! ’
I said, ‘I think I was drunk! ’
‘But we both saw what we saw, ’ she said,
‘And the lives down there were lost! ’
‘It happened a hundred years ago, ’
I said, ‘They were tempest tossed.’

I went to the local museum that day
And got a list from the wreck,
It happened in 1888
And was called, ‘The Duke of Beck.’
My eyes skimmed through the passenger list
And I saw, as in a dream,
That one of the names on board that day
Was a girl called Mavourneen.

I raced back home to the cottage, called
And searched for a week or more,
But there wasn’t a sign of Mavourneen,
They said she’d never been born.
That girl was her own great grandmother
But had not been saved from the wreck,
And I rue the day that I failed to save
The folk on ‘The Duke of Beck.’

2 July 2013

Submitted: Monday, July 01, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, July 24, 2013


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  • Lorraine Colon (7/1/2013 6:42:00 PM)

    Wonderful story! My neighbors just brought home a pudgy little beagle whose owner had to go to a nursing home. The beagle's name is Beck. If I see any seaweed in his hair, I'm moving!

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