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John Polrudden by Charles Causley                                                     

John Polrudden

All of a sudden

Went out of his house one night,


When a privateer

Came sailing near

Under his window-light.


They saw his jugs

His plates and mugs

His hearth as bright as brass,


His gews and gaws

And kicks and shaws

All through their spying-glass.


They saw his wine

His silver shine

They heard his fiddlers play.


“Tonight,” they said,

“Out of his bed

Polrudden we’ll take away.”


And from a skiff

They climbed the cliff

And crossed the salt wet lawn,


And as they crept

Polrudden slept

The night away to dawn.


“In air or ground

What is that sound?”

Polrudden said, and stirred.


They breathed “be still,

It was the shrill

Of the scritch owl you heard.”


“O yet again

I hear it plain,

But do I wake or dream?”


In morning’s fog

The otter dog

Is whistling by the stream.


“Now from the sea

What comes for me

Beneath my windows dark?”

“Lie still, my dear,

All that you hear

Is the red fox’s bark.”


Swift from his bed

Polrudden was sped

Before the day was white,


And head and feet

Wrapped in a sheet

They bore him down the height.


And never more

Through his own door

Polrudden went or came,


Though many a tide

Has turned beside

The cliff that bears his name.


On stone and brick

Was ivy thick

And the grey roof was thin,


And winter’s gale

With fists of hail

Broke all the windows in.


The chimney crown

Is tumbled down

And up grew the green,


Till on the cliff

It was as if

A house had never been.


But when the moon

Swims late or soon

Across St Austell Bay,


What sight, what sound

Haunts air and ground

Where once Polrudden lay?


It is the high

White scritch owl’s cry,

The fox as dark as blood,


And on the hill

The otter still

Whistles beside the flood.

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