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The Hangman's Tree

By Ruth Calder Murphy (Arciemme)

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He sat on the gate by the hangman’s tree,

his foot on a stone, as high as his knee,

a loaf in his hand that he nibbled at will,

and spoke with the ghosts who live on the hill.


At times he seemed sad and at others he’d smile,

nodding and listening intent, all the while,

and sometimes he’d speak, as though in reply,

then shake his head slowly, emitting a sigh.

If ever another should walk to the tree

at the top of the hill, then there he would be,

and there, as they paused by the gate, for the view,

he’d smile and nod and ask if they knew -


If they knew that the ghosts were here, by the tree,

the souls of the hanged who longed to be free,

who lingered until such a time as a friend

would pass through the veil and so bring an end

to their waiting and lingering, trapped on that hill

where the gibbet tree grew and their ghosts lingered still,

a friend who would sit by the old hangman’s tree

learning the truth that would set them all free…


He was there on the gate where the land met the sky

and he spoke with the ghosts and to all who passed by,

as the seasons rolled on and Time ticked away,

he sat with the ghosts on the hill every day

till one day, at dawn, his body was found

under the tree, still warm, on the ground

and up from the dew-spangled grass rose a mist,

bright as the morning, free and adrift.


Up and away the spectres rose high,

dispersing on sunbeams away in the sky,

and there, at the last when the rest were away,

the final wisps rose from the ground where he lay

- his body now cold and empty at last,

his loaf on the ground, never breaking his fast -

and touched by an alchemic Dawn-spangled ray,

golden they flew on the back of the day.


The gate is now bare by the hangman’s tree,

his body beneath it, his soul flying free,

away with the ghosts who go where they will,

the ghosts who resided on Hangman’s Hill.

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