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 man’s eyes lit up like 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 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 darkest work and speak many evil words
To crowds of willing sinners who shall do my will in turn.’
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
For another’s child do I carry now, the devil’s child I fear
But I cannot be rid of it, for word would spread round here.
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