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The Return Of Jonathon Grise - Poem by David Lewis Paget

I stood on the porch
Like one in a daze,
And stared at the oak panelled door,
She'd shut it so quietly, there, in my face
That I just couldn't take it on board.
Her face was composed, but determined I knew,
Dismissive, but what could it mean?
The wedding we'd planned for the Spring was no more
Said the love of my life, Annie Deane!

I stumbled on out
In the gathering gloom,
And winter crawled into my heart,
The night was a portent of shadows and doom
As an owl fluttered past in the dark,
Storm clouds were filling the evening sky
And the wind set its wail in the trees,
The name of a monster was echoed out there,
The name of one, Jonathon Grise!

He'd come to the village
On just such a night,
Had stopped at the old village Inn,
The brim of his hat hid his face from the sight
Of the publican, signing him in,
He had an old trunk that he dragged to his room,
A magical symbol on top,
The publican smelt some old incense he burned
So he went up, and told him to stop.

I never was told
What was said when he knocked,
The publican staggered back down,
His face and his hair had turned grey, so they say,
When asked, the old man had just frowned.
He never said anything more on the case,
But bowed when he passed, to keep peace,
I sensed something evil, unclean in the man
That we all knew as Jonathon Grise.

He never went out
In the daytime, we knew,
But pottered about in the dark,
His cloak would be seen flaring out in the wind
As he strode through the trees in the park,
He bought the old cottage that stood by the shore
Moved in, with a rottweiler hound,
We dared not approach, or the dog would come out,
Bare its teeth, and start sniffing around.

He was watched by the locals,
But never approached,
And he never spoke to a soul,
He seemed quite content on his own in the dark
When the nights were both clammy and cold.
Then one foggy night I saw Widow McLean
Walking down to his house from the fells,
She walked in a daze, and her eyes, they were glazed
As she carried her basket of spells.

Long thought to be harmless,
A lonely old witch,
She knocked at his door in the gloom,
Then entered and stayed for an hour or more
Concocting her spells in his room,
I asked how she knew him, the mystery man
On the following day in the square,
She shivered, looked frightened, and held up one hand,
'I never was... never was there! '

Barely a month had
Gone by since the gloom
Of rejection had landed on me,
The heart that had loved had turned into a tomb
For the love that had set us both free.
Then rumours were whispered that in the Great Hall
The banns had been read and released,
The banns for the wedding of my Annie Deane
With that horror called Jonathon Grise!

My mind couldn't take it,
I tore at my hair,
I ripped at my coat and my shirt,
I drank a whole bottle of whisky off straight
In the hopes it would kill off the hurt,
I wondered how long since the two of them met,
And drunkenly swore my revenge,
I set off to squeeze all the truth from the throat
Of the visiting Widow from Henge.

She screamed when she saw me
Burst in through her door,
I looked like a figure from hell,
What spell had she cast there for Jonathon Grise?
She finally said she would tell.
'The man is pure evil, I met him before,
I met him before you were born,
He came on the night of a westerly gale,
Cast out from a Barque in the storm.'

'I think he deserted,
He wore seaman's clothes,
He never went back to the sea,
He married a woman, and left her in child,
A woman you'll never believe! '
'Just try me, ' I snarled, 'so he's done it before,
And now thinks he'll do it again! '
'Ah yes, but that happened when I was a child,
I couldn't have been more than ten! '

I stopped in my tracks
And I looked at her face,
The Widow was wrinkled and old,
She must have been seventy-seven or eight,
I felt all my innards run cold.
'You must be mistaken, this Jonathon Grise
Must only be thirty or so...'
'The man is the same, ' said the Widow, 'his name
Is the Sailor Who Never Grows Old.'

I sat for a moment
To gather my thoughts,
'You say that he married close by? '
'Ah yes, that he did, but the woman he wed,
In the churchyard, now, she lies! '
'Just tell me her name and I'll leave you in peace, '
I replied, with a portent of fear,
'Her name was Helene, and the child Richard Deane,
Your Annie's Great Grandfather, dear! '

I dropped like a thunderbolt
Onto the hearth,
I couldn't stand up for my life,
The devil had spawned the Great Grandfather
Of the woman he'd have for his wife.
My heart, it burst, and a thousand tears
Came flooding from deep within,
There must be a way to send Jonathon Grise
Back down to the devil's kiln.

I sat with the Widow
For thirteen days,
We read every spell in her book,
On the morning before Annie's wedding bells rang
She tossed all her charms in the brook.
'You said he deserted a ship once, at sea,
Do you have a drowned sailors spell? '
Her eyes had gleamed, old Widow McLean
As she lifted a caul from the well.

That night the moon
Stayed in, and hid,
The stars, they gave up their lease,
A mist came rolling on in from the sea
To the cottage of Jonathon Grise,
A groaning and creaking of timbers and masts
And the plash of the oars then grew,
The longboats, sent from the ghostly Barque
Rowed in with a ghostly crew.

They dragged him swearing
Away to the beach,
He cursed at the Barquentine,
They threw him into a longboat there,
And then he began to scream,
I watched as the ghostly sailing ship
Hove to in the rising swell,
While Jonathon hung from the yardarm there
At last, on his way to Hell.

28 January 2009

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