‘Lancashire Witches’ Poem © CarolAnn Duffy
One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.
Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.
From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.
At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.
Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon
below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars,
feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,
away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave;
'Lancashire Witches' Poem © CarolAnn Duffy, commissioned by Green Close
This piece was commissioned by Green Close as part of the Lancashire Witches 400 project to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witch Trials. The poem was written in response to the journey taken by the accused from their homes in Pendle to their place of execution at Lancaster Castle. The poem is to be included on “tercet” waymarkers designed by textual artist, Stephen Raw, on the new 51-mile ‘Lancashire Witches Walk’ from Barrowford to Lancaster.
More information about the Lancashire Witches 400 project and the ‘Lancashire Witches Walk’ can be found on the LW400 website.
A ‘Lancashire Witches Walk’ booklet has also been produced as part of this project. The book contains an introduction on the history of the Lancashire Witches by Dr Robert Poole as well as sections of OS Maps which contain the 51-mile walking route. There are also various different images displaying the artistic element to the project, including the ‘Lancashire Witches’ poem by Carol Anne Duffy.
To order a copy of the booklet, please click on the image below.