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Poem by Dora Sigerson Shorter

The Rape of the Barons Wine

Who was stealing the Barons wine,
Golden sherry and port so old,
Precious, I wot, as drops of gold?
Lone to-night he came to dine,

Flung himself in his oaken chair,
Kicked the hound that whined for bread;
God! the thief shall swing! he said,
Thrust his hand through his ruffled hair.

Bolt and bar and double chain
Held secure the cellar door;
And the watchman placed before,
Kept a faithful watch in vain.

Every day the story came,
Master, come!  I hear it drip!
The wine is wet on the robbers lip,
Who the robber, none could name.

All the folk in County Clare
Found a task for every day
By the Barons gate to stray,
Came to gossip, stayed to stare.

Nothing here to satisfy
Souls for tragedy awake;
Just the castle by the lake,
Calmest spot beneath the sky.

But the whispered story grew,
When the Baron went to dine,
That a devil shared his wine,
Had his soul in danger too.

Every morn the Baron rose
More morose and full of age;
Passed the day in sullen rage,
Barred his gates on friends or foes.

Lone to-night he came to dine,
Struck the hound that asked a share,
Heard a step upon the stair
Come, the thief is at your wine!

Baron of Killowen keep
Running down the vaulted way,
To the cellar dark by day,
Took the ten steps at a leap.

There he listened with the throng
Of frighted servants at the door,
He heard the wine drip on the floor,
And sea-mews laughter loud and long.

Of oaken beam, of bolt and chain
They freed the door, and crowded through,
Their eyes a horror claimed in vain,
Nor ghost nor devil met their view.

They searched behind the hogshead, where
The watchful spider spied and span;
They sighed to see the wine that ran
A crimson torrent, wasting there.

They even searched the gloomy well
That legend said rose from the lake;
They saw bright bubbles rise and break,
But nothing stranger here befell.

The Baron cursedthe Baron said,
Now all be gone, alone Ill stay,
There shall not rise another day
Without this thief, alive or dead.

So still he stood, no sound was there,
But just the wine went drop and drip;
Save that, the silence seemed to slip
Its threatening fingers through his hair.

And then as last an echo flew,
The splash of waters thrown apart;
He cursed the beating of his heart
Because the thief was listening too.

The slipping scrape of scales he hears,
And sea-mew laughter, loud and sweet;
He dares not move his frightened feet,
His pulse beats with a thousand fears.

At that strange monster in the gloom
He points his pistol quick, and fires;
Before the powder spark expires
He hears a sea-birds scream of doom.

He saw one gleam of foam-white arms,
Of sea-green eyes, of sloak brown hair;
He had a glance to find her fair,
When he had slain her thousand charms.

* * * * *

The Baron of Killowen slew
A strange sea-maiden, young and fair;
And all the folk in county Clare
Will tell you that the tale is true.

And when the Baron came to dine,
His guests could never understand,
That he should say, with glass in hand,
I would the thief were at my wine!

Dora Sigerson Shorter

Dora Sigerson Shorter's other poems:
  1. The Kine of My Father
  2. An Imperfect Revolution
  3. Sixteen Dead Men
  4. The Fairy Changeling
  5. You Will Not Come Again

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