The Bentley Ballads

by Dr Doran

London: Richard Bentley,




Who are you ?
Thoughtless sayimg.

A MANXMAN old, in the wintry cold,
Was seated before his hearth,
And he thought of the past, as the wintry blast
Roll'd fearful o'er the earth.

He had no child, and his home was wild,
Amid the mountains lone ;
His wife was in bed, but he wish'd her dead,
For she was a crabbed old bone.

Straight as a beam did the Manxman seem,
And an awful look had he;
I speak of his youth, when he in truth
Did revel upon the sea.

But now was he bent, and his vigour spent,
And his eye was cold as clay,
And a wicked pain, again and again,
Did plague him every day.

He once was bold, but now was old,-
He once was very proud;
He knew no fear, nor had shed a tear,
But now he wail'd aloud.

And why did he wail, and why turn pale,
And his flesh begin to creep,
As from his seat he piled the peat,
And folded his arms to sleep?

"For what now here have I to fear,
With a drop to keep me warm?
What haunts my head ?" the Manxman said,
" Since I have done no harm.

" The devil may be upon the sea,
Or walking o'er the earth;
Can he molest, when I've done my best,
E'en from my very birth?

"I'll stake a penny there's sinners full many,
Without his need of me ;
Come when he may, give me fair play,
And vanquish'd he shall be !"

With this speech so bold, the Manxman cold
Grew calmer than before,
And his blood did flow with a warmer glow
Right out from his heart's core.

Upon his breast his chin did rest,
His limbs were gently cross'd,
He did not care the breadth of a hair
For the world and all its cost.

And slumber now did sweetly throw
Her gentle mist around,
And the Manxman's eye at her lullably
Was in silken fetters bound.

Ah, cruel taunt! ah, idle vaunt !
The slumberer is deceived,
And hence his mind, more unconfined,
Is not one whit relieved.

For, soon as sleep did o'er him creel),
The fearful sights begun,
And now he roll'd, and next he growl'd,
In sooth it was no fun.

His wife a-bed right over head,
Came softly down the stair ;
But he took no heed, so she with speed
Went back to say her prayers.

And soon she wept, and soon she slept ;
But first she cried in scorn,
"Through many a night, till morning light,
I have been left forlorn."

Now the Manxman bold, in spite of his scold
Had oft done so before ;
For he loved his life, and he loved his wife,
But he loved his pig the more.

And now for awhile a lurid smile
Would o'er his features play,
And quickly again he writhed in pain,
And something strove to say.

What man alive can ever strive
To guide the brain in sleep,
When dreams will come of ills at home,
Of terrors o'er the deep ?


Soon as the Manxman fell asleep,
A little robin came,
His gentle breast did redden deep
Before the cottage flame.

Where'er the Manxman's dream did rove,
That robin chirp'd in song
O'er flood or field, o'er plain or grove,
The robin roved along.

But oh! that song was not of earth,-
'Twas one of wrath and pain,
So reft of all its common mirth,
It pierced the Manxman's brain.

He dream'd it was a day of youth,
When he essay'd to play
With other boys (I tell the truth)
In Ramsay's beauteous bay.

Some builded houses on the sand,
And some would races run ;
In short, it was it happy band,
Bent eagerly on fun.

A fair-hair'd boy, of gentle heart,
And manners sweetly mild,
Did build upon the shore apart,
And thus his time beguiled.

That boy in music and in song
Did afterwards excel,
And men would round the minstrel throng,
They loved his lay so well.

But now a youth with envious eye
Observed his lonely way,
And more than rudely ask'd him why
He would not come and play !

And soon, before he could reply,
Had passion dealt the wound ;
All gather'd round with pitying eye,-
The gentle boy had swoon'd !

And now the Manxman saw the blood
Stream down the fair boy's face ;
He mark'd the other's hellish mood,
And felt the foul disgrace.

Ay, wide his arms did the Manxman fling,
And heavily did he sigh;
But he felt far more the robin's sting,
As it peck'd beneath his eye.


Again-a dark youth loved a girl,
They walk'd alone at eve;
He call'd her oft his fairest pearl.
He never could deceive.

But men are false, as most maids know,
And vows are rashly given;
And, though he swore by all below,
And all his hope of heaven,

Time soon saw the maid forsaken,
And mark'd her glazed eye,
And then she ne'er again did waken,
For she did grieve and die.

They bore her to her grave with song *
Upon a fine May day ;
A multitude did walk along,-
'Twas ill to keep away.

Above Kirk Maughold church she lies,
And softly shall she rest,
Until she soars with sweet surprise
To Him who loved her best.

The Manxman's dream was of her fate
Her pale corpse seem'd full nigh;
And the robin mark'd his wretched state,
As it heck-'d beneath his eye.

* A custom in the Isle of Man.


Again-upon a summer's sea
A seaman sail'd away,
He saw the moon most merrily
Gleam on the midnight spray.

He watch'd the sun o er the sapphire wave
Rise beautiful and grand ;
It such a joyous feeling gave,
He could not wish for land.

Ere lung a rntliless wind did blow,
The sea rull'd mountains mad,
Scarce could they steer that wayward prow-
Our sailor he grew sad.

At midnight on this wilderness
A lonely bark did near,
They raised a cry of deep distress,
And all that cry did hear.

The captain with an oath sail'd on,
Our sailor cheer'd his word,
And right they steer'd their course along,
As men that never heard.

They saw the shivering wretches fling
Their feeble arms on high;
And our Manxman groan'd at the robin's sting,
As it peek'd beneath his eye.


Again-away from the northern seas
Our seaman blithely sail'd,
Where the cold his very breath did freeze,
And like a child he wail'd.

Huge hills of ice as granite stone
Encompass'd them around,
A floating rock so vast and lone,
An island when aground.

And now like mountains would they meet,
With noise as loudest thunder,
As solemnly as friends might meet,
Then proudly break asunder.

Each moment then might be the last,
Not one without its fear;
Our sailor mused upon the past,
When all around grow droar.

Alas ! 'twins not a gentle thought
That stole upon his brain ;
He vow'd, or he was good for nought,
Their captain he'd arraign.

" My boys," he spake unto the crew,
" We all shall perish here;
Why darkly wait with light in view?
Away, then, let us steer.

" Our captain is a harden'd man,
But our stout hands are free ;
Come, follow up my glorious plan-
Hurrah for liberty ! "

A missionary, who sail'd along
For any heathen hind,
Who never did a mortal wrong
Upon the deck did stand.

One word he spake, a word of peace,
With eye and accent mild,
The angry bursts of passion cease,
The crew are reconciled.

Our sailor awful oaths did lift
To God in heaven above,
He would have cast the man adrift
Upon the waste to rove.

The Manxman saw the anger lurk,
And the bosom swelling high ;
But he felt the robin more at work,
As it peck'd beneath. his eye.


The Manxman awoke, and look'd around,
No robin could he see ;
He saw no sight, he heard no sound,-
What could the vision be ?

An old grey hare sat on her rump,*
And coolly wiped her face;
The Manxman scream'd, and with a jump
She bounded from the place.

He turn'd, and, seated on a chair,
Beheld a lady grand.
He could not think what she did there,
Until, in speech so bland,

She spake :-" I enter here, kind friend,
For shelter for the night ;
I trust you will my cause defend,
And help the poor to right."

*The popular belief that witches enter hares.

The false Manxman, the false Manxman,
Says he, " I never will
Drive out the poor from before my door,-
Myself I'd sooner kill! "

And thus he spake, for wide awake
He view'd the lady fine,
And many a ring, like a glittering thing,
Upon her hand did shine.

She talk'd apace, a.s her wrinkled face
Was shadow'd by the night,
Save when a gleam from the fire did beam
Upon her eye so bright.

This ancient dame seemM to be lame,
And the hare had limp'd aside ;
But glances stole like a burning coal
From out her eye of pride.

And, though she was old, to the Manxman cold
She spake so free and tender,
That loudly he swore he'd die before
He ever could offend her.

" You never gave," said the lady grave,
" The least offence to me ;
And now your speech doth warmly preach
You'll ever kindly be."

To the Manxman's view the flames burn'd blue
But he cared not for it now;
For the lady's word was all he heard,
And it caused a wondrous glow.

" Madam, indeed," said he with speed,
" You seem to know me well;
But never before within this door,
Or in this lonely dell,

" Have I ever seen so gracious a queen
To talk with one so poor.
And, pray, may a dame to question where
You have seen me before?"

Your parents dear, who lived long here,
Were right well known to me;
They loved me well, as I needs must tell,
And will remember'd be.

" And from your birth, upon this earth,
Oh ! I have watch'd you long;
For many an hour, with hearty power,
You've named me in your song."

" Your name, indeed," again with speed
The modest Manxman cried,
" I do not know,-and surely now
My memory hath denied."

" How can that be," said she, with glee,
" When you have been my care?
I saw you play in Ramsay bay
With the boy of the golden hair."

The Manxman's eyes with quick surprise
I ween were open'd wide,
And he did stare with an awful glare
On the lady by his side.

" I saw you walk in loving talk,
With the girl so young and fair;
On the very eve you did deceive
I communed with you there.

"In the funeral hour I saw them lower
Her pale face in the grave.
And you were as gay as that May-day
Upon the distant wave.

" Ere the nettle grew, another with you
Did rove unheeding there-
She is now in bed right over head,
One broken down with care."

The Manxman groan'd, and glared around
As wild as a bird of prey;
All in his fright he cursed the night,
And long'd for break of day.

But the lady still would have her will,
Nor could she be denied;
As his blood ran cold, she grew more bold,
Still closer at his side.

"I could not fail, when you set sail,
To guide you on the sea,
And when that storm did heaven deform,
I bade you cling to me.

"I fear'd, indeed, lest your heart should bleed
When you saw the lonely wreck;
But your captain's voice wits all your choice,
As you swore upon the deck.

"'Those seamen brave met a watery grave ;
Most pious souls were they;
And from Paradise they all shall rise
Upon the judgment day."

The woman scowl'd, and the thunders roll'd
As she spoke that very word ;
He would have pray'd, but was sore afraid
For all that he had heard.

" I sail'd with you and a jovial crew,
'Mid the icebergs floating by;
And, when your hand did spurn command,
I mark'd your blood-red eye.

" The churchman so pale, who did prevail,
Is still my greatest foe ;
He bafed me then, and will again,
For the Gospel is to grow."

" And be it so," cried the Manxman now,
As ne'er he had spake before ;
And the lady frown'd, and stamp'd the ground-
In truth he said no more.

" I may not yield, for in your field
I saw you dig last morn;
You could not find things to your mind,
As you look'd around in scorn.

" A robin sweet in the snowy sleet
Did hop within your view,
That little bird by man preferr'd,
Was basely kill'd by you."

The Manxman's ire burn'd like fire,
Aloud he cursed and swore;
The lady fair seem'd in peril there,
As he flung wide the door.

But oh ! his wrath was like the froth
Upon a heaving sea ;
The lady was gone, but not alone
A rescued man stood he.

Full nine feet high to the Manxman's eye
A hideous form appear'd,
And down he fell as under a spell,
So soon that form he fear'd.

Of bone and skin, with flame within,
Of a sulphureous smell,
His awful tone, in an hour so lone,
Did sound as a funeral-knell.

A lifted hand, that waved command,
Did slowly beckon thrice,
And the Manxman, pale, for his life did quail,
As he answer'd in a trice.

" Why come to me, why come to me,
To fill me with alarm ?
Why seek not him who is steep'd in sin?
For I have done no harm.

" Did I destroy the tender boy ?
Or did I kill the maid?
Did I pass by the shipwreck'd cry,
Or draw the rebel blade?

" On high Barrule, when the nights are cool,
I never roam'd to steal.
It is too true the bird I slew,-
And that I do reveal."

He would beguile,-but 'twas plain the while
He was an unkind man;
He mock'd at school, and a reckless fool
He lived as he began.

Next morn on the ground was the Manxman found
As dead as a man could be ;
And how he was slain will ever remain
A hidden mystery !

The above describes a Manxman (and a Manxman means an inhabitant of the Isle of Man,) who was of a cruel disposition when a boy, cruel when a young man, and cruel to the last. In this manner the devil had power over him all his life, and comes to claim him before he dies. It will be seen that in his dream he is permitted to look back upon his past errors, and the fact of his having on that very day killed so innocent a bird as a robin is a sore sting to his conscience. His evil spirit comes at first, in the shape of an ancient dame, and then appears as a more hideous figure. The devil is made to assume a form, that is, the evil conscience incarnates its awful guilt.

The Manx people believe in apparitions, or second sight, and are forewarned of the death of others. From a letter of Dr. Sacheverell's to the celebrated Addison, it appears that the wise and learned have given credit to this belief.

An elegant writer, who travelled in the island, says, "without being guilty of presumption, we may impute these superstitions of the Manx to a native melancholy, cherished by indolence, and heightened by the wild, solitary, and romantic scenes to which they are habitually accustomed. A Manxman, amid his lonely mountains, reclines by some romantic stream, the murmurings of which lull him into a pleasing torpor. Half slumbering, he sees a variety of imaginary beings, which he believes to be real. Sometimes they resemble his traditionary idea of fairies, and sometimes they assume the appearance of his friends and neighbours. Presuming on these dreams, the Manx enthusiast predicts some future event, and, should anything similar occur, he fancies himself endowed with the gift of prescience, and thin - disturbs his own happiness and that of others." "I make no doubt," continues this author afterwards, "but, amid ,, hideous solitudes, a man of a melancholy or superstitious mind may insensibly form visions of some dreadful calamity he is about to suffer, and which may not only receive strength, but even completion, from u sombrous imagination, heightened by traditionary terrors. With the world of spirits we are little acquainted ; but I can never reconcile it to our ideas of the majesty, wisdom, and benevolence of the Deity, that he should communicate to a few indolent recluses such revelations of the unknown world as could only flatter vanity, or accelerate human misery."

Thus speaks our author ; but we must remember that all nations, in all ages, have believed in supernatural agencies. Whoever has read the delightful letters of the younger Pliny, will remember not only the account of the haunted house at Athens, but the firm impression made on Pliny himself, and the best orators and others of that learned age, by the circumstance of dreams. Brutus and Buonaparte, Caesar and Lord Clarendon, with a host of others, all attest remarkable things ; but the subject is one which requires no mean investigation ; and, at present, it may be best consistent with good sense to observe, that there seems to be as much temerity in never giving credit to dreams, as there is superstition in always doing so. " "It appears to me," says an eminent critic, "that the true medium between the two extremes is to treat them as we would a known liar : we are sure he most usually relates falsehoods ; however, nothing hinders but he may sometimes speak the truth."

The Isle of Man has a population of fifty thousand, and the literary acquirements of the inhabitants have greatly increased of late years. Much commercial activity and bustle prevail, and far too much litigation also ; but still her noble hills and secluded glens may be silently and deeply enjoyed. The fame of Bishop Wilson has made the island renowned in many lands, and caused her to be called the "sacred isle." The Manx clergy are liberal and gentle in their views, far more so than the sectaries, and would do honour to a more polished and learned country than Manx-land will be for a while.

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