This is one of a series of poems, written by my Grandmother, that represent a portrait of her childhood in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, places and people she loved who are, for the most part, no longer with us. She dedicates each and every poem to her daughters, and has kindly given me permission to share them with you all, enjoy…
We had our characters, of course –
There was Mark Miller, he was a gypsy;
He rode a flat-cart, drawn by a wild-eyed
Pony. In one large careless hand he held
The reins, loosely, and in the other hand
A thin, long-handled whip, with which he’d flick
The pony as it sped; and when we saw
Him coming we would crowd against the hedge.
We were afraid of his wild blackness,
Like Heathcliff, reincarnated.
I never heard him speak to anyone
Or saw him off his wagon. Sometimes at
Night I’d lie in bed and hear the sound of
Horses galloping behind the house,
And try to tell myself it was the ghost
Of some old highwayman, or of a coach
Trying to shake off its pursuers.
I was not, at that time, afraid of ghosts;
There were too few to crowd into my mind –
A kindly teacher and a new-born babe –
Wherever they might be assumed no threat;
But my imagination was not strong
Enough to banish from my mind the thought
Of that dark man, powerful and wild and full
Of unknown terrors and presentiments.
© Dorothy Davis-Sellick 1998 onwards