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BALLAD OF RUTH BLAY
By Albert Laighton (1859)
IN the worn and dusty annals
Of our old and quiet town,
With its streets of leafy beauty.
And its houses quaint and brown,
With its dear associations,
Hallowed by the touch of time,
You may read this thrilling legend,
This sad tale of wrong and crime.
In the drear month of December,
Ninety years ago to-day,
Hundreds of the village people
Saw the hanging of Ruth Blay;
Saw her clothed in silk and satin,
Borne beneath the gallows-tree,
Dressed as in her wedding garments,
Soon the bride of Death to be;
Saw her tears of shame and anguish,
Heard her shrieks of wild despair,
Echo thro' the neighboring woodlands,
Thrill the clear and frosty air.
When at last, in tones of warning,
From its high and airy tower,
Slowly with its tongue of iron,
Tolled the bell the fatal hour;
Like the sound of distant billows,
When the storm is wild and loud,
Breaking on the rocky headland,
Ran a murmur through the crowd.
And a voice among them shouted,
"Pause before the deed is done:
We have asked reprieve and pardon
For the poor misguided one."
But these words of Sheriff Packer
Rang above the swelling noise:
"Must I wait and lose my dinner?
Draw away the cart, my boys!"
Fold thy hands in prayer, O woman!
Take thy last look of the sea;
Take thy last look of the landscape;
God be merciful to thee!
Stifled groans, a gasp, a shudder,
And the guilty deed was done;
On a scene of cruel murder
Coldly looked the Winter sun.
Then the people, pale with horror,
Looked with sudden awe behind,
As a field of grain in Autumn
Turns before a passing wind;
For distinctly in the distance,
In the long and frozen street,
They could hear the ringing echoes
Of a horse's sounding feet.
Nearer came the sound and louder,
Till a steed with panting breath,
From its sides the white foam dripping,
Halted at the scene of death;
And a messenger alighted,
Crying to the crowd, "Make way!
This I bear to Sheriff Packer;
'Tis a pardon for Ruth Blay!"
But they answered not nor heeded,
For the last fond hope had fled;
In their deep and speechless sorrow,
Pointing only to the dead.
And that night, with burning bosoms,
Muttering curses fierce and loud,
At the house of Sheriff Packer
Gathered the indignant crowd,
Shouting, as upon a gallows
A grim effigy they bore,
"Be the name of Thomas Packer
A reproach forevermore!"