As I was gathering St John’s Wort down by the riverside,
A handsome stranger did approach, cruel laughter in his eyes.
He said ‘Sweet maid, come lay you down and I will lay beside,
Such pleasures will I make you know, such joys unconfined.”
Said I, “Kind sir, please leave me be; to a good man I am wed
And no desire or want have I to share another’s bed.”
At this he laughed and shook his head with a strange and mocking gaze.
The young man’s eyes shone with burning fire and my thoughts did slip away.
What happened then I do not know for I dreamed the strangest dream,
Of a dark sweet place where people danced and whirled and burned and screamed.
When I awoke on the river’s bank, among the reeds and stones,
My skirts, they were strewn all about and I was quite alone.
I felt then such a sickening pain and fell down to my knees,
Twas then I knew just what it was that man had done to me.
To my surprise I saw him fly ‘pon black wings in the sky,
That same young man with the handsome face and burning cruel bright eyes.
He said ‘wretch, do you know me now? Do you know just who I am?
For my child now grows inside of you and one day will be a man,
Who will do my very darkest work and speak many evil words,
To crowds of willing sinners who shall do my will in turn.
Then the earth shall be my dominion, just as Legion is my name;
Bless my child and raise him well, for I shall come again.”
At this I fell down to the ground and tore at my hair,
Like a maid half mad with rage and half mad with despair
I cried hot tears, I wept and moaned until the night-time came,
The quietly did I wander home, hanging my head in shame.
For another’s child I carry now, the devil’s child I fear,
But I cannot be rid of it, for word would spread round here.
And ruined shall I surely be, dishonoured and undone,
So we must live an evil lie, that this child is your son.
I see the rage burn in your eyes and I beg you understand,
That I wanted nothing of this fate, now that I am surely damned.
My love, my love, please hold your tongue and calm your jealous heart,
For I fear that I have been undone by the Devil’s cunning art,
As I was gathering St John’s Wort.