March 6, 2014

The Lady and the Ghost, By Jennifer A. McGowan

"The Ghost's Petition," By Emma Florence Harrsion

Editor's note: Jennifer's work has been featured often in EC--she knows how to evoke a mood. A touch of the macabre and a nod to classic story-poems from the British Isles made this a winner.
Bess, she had a likely lad,
and that lad he had Bess.
Why he went out on Hallows eve
is anybody’s guess.

He lost his way and climbed a hill
to see what could be seen—
Glided up to him from out the mists
a grim and ghostly queen.

“One kiss, my handsome Will,” she cried,
“One kiss!  I claim my prize.
or those who climb up Tanner’s Hill
are driven mad, or wise.”

Now Will he fancied wisdom
if it would get him back to Bess.
He bowed to the ghostly figure,
bestowed on it a kiss. 

Just one kiss from my clay-cold lips
and you’ll never be alone. 

And he saw gold abounding,
riches more than he could name.
He gathered gems up in his hands
and then he turned back home.

Bess waited with a lantern
brushing her flowing hair.
She thought she heard Will in the lane
but nobody walked there.

She thought she heard Will by the byre
but no-one passed it by.
She thought she heard him at the door;
she thought she heard him sigh.

He climbed in through the window
reached his hand hers to have.
But Will had found his wisdom
in the bed of an early grave. 

Just one kiss from my clay-cold lips
and you’ll never be alone. 

The Lady and the Ghost cont’d. 

Bess felt his hand pass through her own
put on her cloak of green
ran crying through the lonely night
to face the ghastly queen.

“I’ll pay your price, you hag,” she swore
as she clomb Tanner’s Hill.
“You shall have my cursed kiss,
and I shall have my Will.”

The queen laughed soft but she laughed long,
“I fear not to be spurned.”
A kiss then to her Bessie threw
and was kissed in return.

The morning sun dawned bright and gay
and Bess awoke and saw
The ranks of dead men in the dew
a hundred strong, or more. 

Just one kiss from my clay-cold lips
and you’ll never be alone.

Now Bess among the living waits
for Time to claim his own.
The faithful dead walk at her side
and she’s never alone.

 Jennifer A. McGowan lives near Oxford, England, and has published widely on both sides of the Atlantic.  For more poetry, info about her first collection and anthologies, and for samples of her medieval calligraphy, visit


Anonymous said...

I love poems that tell a story. This one is a real winner. Very cool.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading a story about a boy raised by wolves. This story is so wonderfully told from a wolf's eye view.

Teresa Robeson said...

Very nice and creepy!

A.L. Loveday said...

What a wonderful poem, it reminds me of an old English folk tale I read once (I can't remember the name). This has a very epic feel to it and I love the language you used, it was very evocative~

Laura B. said...


Anonymous said...

This is a very intriguing poem. I'm always impressed by how some authors can tell such a great story in such a short space with such a small amount of words and create such intense emotional writing.