Poetry Corner – A Ballad of Hell

'A LETTER from my love to-day!	 
  Oh, unexpected, dear appeal!'	 
She struck a happy tear away,	 
  And broke the crimson seal.	 
'My love, there is no help on earth,	         5
  No help in heaven; the dead-man's bell	 
Must toll our wedding; our first hearth	 
  Must be the well-paved floor of hell.'	 
The colour died from out her face,	 
  Her eyes like ghostly candles shone;	  10
She cast dread looks about the place,	 
  Then clenched her teeth and read right on.	 
'I may not pass the prison door;	 
  Here must I rot from day to day,	 
Unless I wed whom I abhor,	  15
  My cousin, Blanche of Valencay.	 
'At midnight with my dagger keen,	 
  I'll take my life; it must be so.	 
Meet me in hell to-night, my queen,	 
  For weal and woe.'	  20
She laughed although her face was wan,	 
  She girded on her golden belt,	 
She took her jewelled ivory fan,	 
  And at her glowing missal knelt.	 
Then rose, 'And am I mad?' she said:	  25
  She broke her fan, her belt untied;	 
With leather girt herself instead,	 
  And stuck a dagger at her side.	 
She waited, shuddering in her room,	 
   Till sleep had fallen on all the house.	  30
She never flinched; she faced her doom:	 
  They two must sin to keep their vows.	 
Then out into the night she went,	 
  And, stooping, crept by hedge and tree;	 
Her rose-bush flung a snare of scent,	  35
  And caught a happy memory.	 
She fell, and lay a minute's space;	 
  She tore the sward in her distress;	 
The dewy grass refreshed her face;	 
  She rose and ran with lifted dress.	  40
She started like a morn-caught ghost	 
  Once when the moon came out and stood	 
To watch; the naked road she crossed,	 
  And dived into the murmuring wood.	 
The branches snatched her streaming cloak;	  45
  A live thing shrieked; she made no stay!	 
She hurried to the trysting-oak—	 
  Right well she knew the way.	 
Without a pause she bared her breast,	 
  And drove her dagger home and fell,	  50
And lay like one that takes her rest,	 
  And died and wakened up in hell.	 
She bathed her spirit in the flame,	 
  And near the centre took her post;	 
From all sides to her ears there came	  55
  The dreary anguish of the lost.	 
The devil started at her side,	 
  Comely, and tall, and black as jet.	 
'I am young Malespina's bride;	 
  Has he come hither yet?'	  60
'My poppet, welcome to your bed.'	 
  'Is Malespina here?'	 
'Not he! To-morrow he must wed	 
  His cousin Blanche, my dear!'	 
'You lie, he died with me to-night.'	  65
  'Not he! it was a plot' ... 'You lie.'	 
'My dear, I never lie outright.'	 
  'We died at midnight, he and I.'	 
The devil went. Without a groan	 
  She, gathered up in one fierce prayer,	  70
Took root in hell's midst all alone,	 
  And waited for him there.	 
She dared to make herself at home	 
  Amidst the wail, the uneasy stir.	 
The blood-stained flame that filled the dome,	  75
  Scentless and silent, shrouded her.	 
How long she stayed I cannot tell;	 
  But when she felt his perfidy,	 
She marched across the floor of hell;	 
  And all the damned stood up to see.	  80
  	The devil stopped her at the brink:	 
  She shook him off; she cried, 'Away!'	 
'My dear, you have gone mad, I think.'	 
  'I was betrayed: I will not stay.'	 
Across the weltering deep she ran;	  85
  A stranger thing was never seen:	 
The damned stood silent to a man;	 
  They saw the great gulf set between.	 
To her it seemed a meadow fair;	 
  And flowers sprang up about her feet	  90
She entered heaven; she climbed the stair	 
  And knelt down at the mercy-seat.	 
Seraphs and saints with one great voice	 
  Welcomed that soul that knew not fear.	 
Amazed to find it could rejoice,	  95
  Hell raised a hoarse, half-human cheer.

- John Davidson

Quik ReReview: Fort Bowie (1958)

Fort BowieFort Bowie is a 1958 Western movie that stars Ben Johnson and a bunch of other names I don’t recognize. Probably no one else will, either. Anyhow:


– Heh, he mentioned Mangas Coloradas (AKA, Lex Barker in the Barker-Johnson vehicle War Paint. Or War Pony. Or something like that. Previously reviewed on this blog somewhere.)  (Do I watch too many ’50s Westerns? Nooooooo of course not.)

– I’d watch a movie called War Pony.

– Well, you can’t say that this movie isn’t quick and to the point as far as characterization and plotting goes. We’re at 6 minutes flat and we know who is who and what’s what. Ben is Tomahawk Thompson, the Good Captain. The Bad Major is a Washington stooge who shoots Indians under a truce flag. The wishy-washy Colonel isn’t going to like this. (Neither are the Indians, but really, who cares?)

– Mind, the writing is pretty clunky. But it’s still fast-moving and fast-moving cheese is the best kind of cheese.

– OK, the Colonel just said he wanted his wife…alive, in one piece, and with her hair still on, three separate times in one conversation. If that isn’t a code for “murder that b*tch please” I don’t know what ain’t.

– Heh, “The woman of Victorio” was cast out by the Apache, who don’t trust her. Quoth Ben: “Seems to me you’re in a bad spot, lady. We don’t trust you, either.”

– Wow, that was direct of her.

– Oh, OUCH.

– You’d probably get in trouble for beating up a civilian.

– Wow, Ben is a magnet for forward women in this film, ain’t he. (…even though it’s hard to tell at bootleg resolution) (still not obsessed).

– Wow, Ben gets lucky a lot in this movie. Mind you, this is not a good idea. It’s not even as though the Colonel is particularly bad: he’s even resisting the Political Officer’s insinuations about genocide.

– The Colonel even dotes on her, she’s just a witch!

– Why are we spending so much time watching this witch?


– YIKES SHE CAME RIGHT OUT AND SAID IT?! (Ben, we told you it was a bad idea!)


– So Ben gets what’s probably a suicide mission: take terms to Victorio while the other cavalry troops go rampaging around meanwhile. He points out that it might not be definite suicide, if the terms are such that Victorio likes them. Why do I get the sudden feeling that Victorio is not going to be offered reasonable terms….?

– “But sir, Victorio will chop Thompson into pieces and throw them at us!” (Direct quote).

– I love this movie. It’s pure cheese, but it moves fast, it thinks about things on an adult level, and then it does something juvenile while giggling instead.

– Ben salvages his conscience, dignity, and honor out of the wreckage of a conversation with Mrs. Colonel. That takes some doing…..ohh, so he actually didn’t sleep with her. He turned her down and she took it poorly. Well, obviously, he’s the hero.

– Ben points out that if Victorio smells a trap, he, Ben, will be in deep trouble.
“Yes, you’d be the first victim.”
“But not the last, sir.”

– So: there is a possibility Ben might survive the Colonel’s Uriah Gambit. On the other hand, there is a strong possibility Mrs. Colonel is going to end up dead by the end of the movie. AND GOOD RIDDANCE. The Indian girl is much nicer, Ben.

– Oops, the negociations failed. Well, who could have possibly seen that happening?

– Aww, Victorio rides a white horse, and he gets to kill the evil Major himself. And then scalp him. See, that’s what we call progress!

– ….mind you, he does leave orders for Ben and Co. to be tortured. It’s an incremental process.

– That was the most lackluster stampede I’ve ever seen. Sheesh.

– See, this film has kind of set things up to the point where I’m actually hoping the Apaches take Fort Bowie. And that’s not really a good thing, honestly, because aside from Victorio there are no Indian characters to be rooting for.

– Lady, loading rifles is honestly the least you could do. And shut up and stop trying to manipulate your husband. WHAT THE HECK DO YOU MEAN, YOU’VE NEVER LOVED ANY MAN BUT HIM? WHAT? ARGH.

– Oh no, darn it, the cavalry has arrived. Drat. I was hoping they’d take the fort!

– Tomahawk fight! A clinch! Oh no! Who will the Colonel shoot with his last bullet!?

– Well, Ben survived.

– Also the Colonel has apologized.

– Indian Girl is injured, but at least she’s got Ben….


Rated: Lol, it’s a B-grade Western, what do you expect?