Lightning Jack

Lightning Jack

A Poem by David Lewis Paget

 

The air was still, the eve was chill
And the Elders forecast rain,
They looked to the distant rolling hills
At the ominous cloud that came,
The doors and shutters of cottage folk
Were slammed and barred in the dark,
With the first of the lightning forking down
On its way to the village of Stark.
 
A figure stood at the crossroads there,
And stared at the cloud in dread,
His boots were muddied, his topcoat wet
And his hat just drooped on his head,
With thunder rumbling like a growl
At the back of the Devil's throat,
The figure dropped to his knees and howled,
In a long and a high pitched note.
 
The crossroad gibbet was made of oak,
Had carried a hundred moans,
Had hung its felons from each of its arms
'Til the flesh had peeled from their bones,
It stood like a force of nature, poised
To point three ways in the dark,
To the towns of Taye, of Ath and Brahe
And fourth, to the village of Stark.
 
The thunder had rolled relentlessly,
The rain, it was pelting down,
A villager saw the figure there
As he halted a while, and frowned,
The lightning forked from the darkening cloud
And it struck the figure in black,
As the oak exploded in one brief flash
By the figure of Lightning Jack.
 
The figure staggered and howled once more
Then he shook his fist at the sky,
He'd been lit up by the thunderbolt
That had crisped his hat, bone dry,
But now he was mad as he raised his voice
And he screamed by the wreck of the tree:
'You can burst the gibbet and scorch the earth
But by God, you can't get me!'
 
He made his way to the village of Stark
Took a room at the village Inn,
But news had spread of his near escape
From the lightning bolt of sin,
The villagers took to crossing themselves
When he passed, each turned his back,
They'd have no truck with the devil's seed,
That they knew as Lightning Jack.
 
For Jack had been struck a dozen times
By a bolt from the darkening sky,
It was almost as if he was cursed by God
And the villagers wondered why?
Wherever he roamed in the lanes and fields
When a storm was coming on,
He'd run and hide, but the storm's black tide
Would follow, wherever he'd gone.
 
They said that he'd killed a man one day
For a woman of gypsy blood,
But she had rushed to her lover's side
As he died there, in the mud.
Then she cursed him once in the Romany way,
And she cursed his soul as well,
That he'd live forever to curse the day
That he'd broken her lover's spell.
 
They'd dragged him before the magistrates,
His hands and his feet in chains,
They'd sent him down on a murder charge
To be hanged by the autumn rains,
The drop, it had failed to open up,
The rope had snapped with his fall,
The beam gave way on the third attempt
And he lay half-stunned on the floor.
 
The third attempt brought a swift reprieve
From a Judge, in the fear of God,
Who thought it an omen he be spared
For the Lord's own lightning rod,
So he sent him out of the country,
Told the wretch he'd better not hope,
To return again, or he'd feel the pain
Once more, of the hangman's rope.
 
And so he sailed to the continent
And his feet were set to roam,
He slept in the barns of farmers' farms
With never a place called home,
While every storm from a threatening sky
Had caused him to curse and shout,
The rolling verse of the Romany's curse
Was determined to seek him out.
 
The lightning struck on the baldest hill,
It struck in the deepest wood,
It took one eye, and blistered his tongue,
Withered one arm where he stood,
At times he bordered on madness,
Scanned the skies for a lightning bolt,
And shook in fear as his fate drew near
That he'd turn to a pillar of salt.
 
The Mayor of Stark in his ermine robes
Had drawn on his long gold chain,
Had gathered his councillors round him
Raised his voice, and began to declaim:
'As long as I'm the Mayor of Stark
In charge of the town's decrees,
This Lightning Jack is a menace,
Wrecks our barns and blasts our trees.'
 
They carried him bodily into the square
And they bound him up in chain,
With lightning flashing around their heads,
He roared: 'Now feel my pain!
God's wrath will stay with you in Stark
Unless you let me go!'
The Mayor looked round the village square
Then quietly answered - 'No!'
 
'A curse may turn to a blessing,
It depends on a person's creed,
And you may seek your salvation
By fulfilling a village's needs.'
They hoisted him up to the ancient church,
They tied him onto the steeple,
'Now you may serve as our lightning rod,
Perched high above the people!'
 
At Stark they witness many a storm
Where the lightning forks on down,
But not one villager has been struck
In field or farm or town,
The lightning arcs down to the Church
To sear the hangman's dross,
For something withered and crisp lies there
Beneath the Holy Cross!
 
And after the worst of the storm is spent
The wind howls through the eaves,
The lightning tapering off, it makes
Its way back through the trees,
Then you may listen and hear a cry
That sounds more like a plea -
'You can blast and light up the weathercock
But by God, you can't get me!'
 
David Lewis Paget

© 2012 David Lewis Paget



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Featured Review

I can't recall when I was more entertained by a poem. A marvellous telling of the tale of naive innocence that is the greatest volition and will in all of us. Will not view itself wrong or back down from a position because it has not learnt how. Civilization helps us to do that. But where a poet in cicvilization helps us to recall our own mongrel, we realize the delight it is in our experience. Became god almighty himself huh? A poem that ought to be preserved for children of future generations to read and enjoy. Thank you.

Posted 5 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

This is a wonderful poem, very interesting and very fun to read. The way you told the story, with such descriptive words and natural flow, kept the poem fresh and entertaining throughout. I am not familiar with the original story this is drawn from, but I feel as though you have made a masterful interpretation of it through the art of poetry, and it is quite impressive how well you managed it.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

David Lewis Paget

3 Years Ago

The video version is on youtube, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuaP7_h34Dc
or on WritersCa.. read more
Wow...wow...wow....the best poem read on this land....you told a story nicely through very fantastic,fab,great,wellrhymed poem...it remained me speechless...you have written this very precisely....great piece...

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

an amazing piece!
yet another work of art.
just a bit of repetition "lighting form" mainly!
but amazing!

Posted 4 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

This story sounds very familiar to me... I will have to place it... We can all relate to being "cursed" in one way or anouther. Funny how God gets the blame or credit here as in life. We shake our fists thinking that we can win by not dying. Who would want that victory? Anyhow, got me thinking and laughed a bit too.
Thanks!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Again our Gypsy freinds answer the stereotype roll of cursers and occult, but it does not take from the poem. Do you have any that shows them as good? They have fascinating legends and tales to tell, some of which I turned to verse

http://www.writingsinrhyme.com/?s=romany shows a selection.

Posted 5 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

This was a thrill to read. I was held in suspence on every word. From the first to the last I was waiting to see what would happen to Lightning Jack and the townsfolk who live in Stark.

You sir, are a fantastic poet, perhaps the best I have had the pleasure to read in my time of 38 years.

Posted 5 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Ooh la la, a fiery tale of human weakness on both sides of the law! The battle for love and fear of the wrath of God, the intrigue community justice based on fear prevalent even today!

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

you sure can write. fun.....

Posted 5 Years Ago


Awesome.. I love this kind of writting.. :)

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on June 14, 2009
Last Updated on June 14, 2012

Author

David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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