Samuel Partridge thus depos’d
… as if it was well past their endurance,
the 2 men, moonlit, russet-stained,
hoarse. For they set it down and down again
at intervals, drew what breath they could,
then took it up well before either was best prepared,
each hunched about their burden, bent
on the field edge, the rat black water waiting.
… and as for myself, I went back
about my business, pushing my handcart
that way and this. Until not long after,
what did I see but the same 2 men, faster
afoot and at it again, one keeping step with
the other, another blanket lapped between ‘em.
What more I can tell is that I saw a fifth foot
added to their four, stuck up stiff as a gibbet
between the winding cloth’s bloody folds.
… back the men went to the same field edge
to lay their second load to rest with the first.
About 11 at night it was when I heard the lap
of water, the suck of it all going down. And
by and by I saw the 2 men unhanded, turning
about and about blind, treading the field, the one
bowed in the front, the other a-stagger behind.
Between them nothing said, but breath.
Jennifer’s inspiration for the piece:
This poem was inspired by the deposition of Mary Springet who lodged with Catherine and John Hays. Her partial account of the murder and disposal of thebody – she heard a lot but saw relatively little – suggested a poem where the details are left to the imaginations of both the person speaking and the reader. And the poet! I have tried to utilise some of the language that occurs in a number of the depositions we read.
The original case of Catherine Hayes can be found here