Jenny Greenteeth

Sandro Glättli , 2002

From the misty heather moorland
Down the green, moss-matted stair
Walks the girl in heathen rags
With purple bluebells in her hair –
In her hand, the deadly nightshade
Blossoms from the glade;
She’s come by way of Doxey Pond
By the bulrush, reed and frond
Where moths and blow wives flutter
O’er blooms of witch’s butter,
Before the night pulls tight its shutters
At the coming of the dawn.

She sings trill and la and tralla-dee!
Under the shadows of the batches;
By stunted oak and withered beech
On wind-wild nights she watches
For the nightjar in the trees
To sing his somber melodies;
She’s come by way of Doxey Pond
By the bulrush, reed and frond
Where milk-white moonbeams shatter
On the black and silent water
As the night pulls tight its shutters
Before the coming of the dawn.

In the peat-dark waters whisper
The phantoms of the deeps
Of an age-old coppiced wood
Where the ancient Mere Witch sleeps
Her ancient sleep;
Still the peat-dark waters seep
Below the crumbling cottage walls
Draped with pennywort and fern;
In the East a darkness falls
Where the elfin bonfires burn.

By the Erl King’s ancient throne;
Made of silversand and stone
They dance beneath the starless skies
They cry: “Awake, Old Jenny Greenteeth
From your deep and troubled sleep!”
Then away, away! The Mere Witch flies!

The girl in heathen rags
With purple blue-bells in her hair
Climbs the green moss-matted stair;
She goes her way by Doxey Pond
By the bulrush, reed and frond;
When the flames are all but gone,
No moths and blow wives flutter
For the night’s locked tight its shutters
To stop the coming of the dawn.

(a poem inspired by Christopher Somerville’s wonderful book Britain and Ireland’s Best Wild Places)
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