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The Ballad of 13 Miller's Court

Door: Jurriaan Maessen, 17:32, 16 augustus 2017


The Ballad of 13 Miller’s Court

As so often with heartworn remembrance
Treacherous time, our bespectacled friend
Tricks us for the treat, and into thinking
There is some constant in our ways,
Something unremarkable.

There is not, and so we are.

Dark Mary when roving on some errant of sorts
Marie Jeanette when prowling for favors
Mad Mary to muggers, Fair Emma to friends
Jolly Jane when jesting, Baby Mary for dad
and of whom it is said
all of Whitechapel would hence bear the dread

But for me she was fair, dark, mad, wild, nor jolly
but simply and plain
My love from the island
My Sweet Mary Jane.

Now, let’s see.

Not twenty and five was Mary in sweet summers counted.
She always wore white
– an apron, no hat-
But ne’er of her was it said
she was, by chance or design, destined to die at the hands of a murderer.

Was her hair painted pale golden perhaps?
or coal-black or red-scarfed or loose-limbed or sad,
But either or all, be as it may
for me she was neither nor none but Sweet Mary Jane.

Now tenants do swear to attest
Dark Mary, they say, was prone to misgivings
Spitting curses in Irish
swearing heavy in French
Announcing her sleep with some crude Irish lore
and like the Tower declare before all of Whitechapel:
“A Violet I Plucked from Mother’s Grave When a Boy.”

Her only indiscretions perhaps
were carnal transgressions
and the prospect of sixpence for grabs
and so it was on that autumn accursed
Fair Mary was called upon at the tip of the hat
By some uneventful stranger

“Lend me a shilling, sir. Come forth & deliver.
Or buy me a drink if you’re willing
– Mary will not be ungrateful- “

Then retiring to bed, alone or engaged
Foul-mouthed Mary strode calmly indoor
Dark Emma, Mary Jeanette
“I hope the weather will clear, and the sun on us set.
Now sit, love”, she said- “and tell me your bidding.”

For that pale November when she stumbled to bed
“My heart, my heart”, young Dark Emma cried
While the fiend uninvited raised his glimmering hand

The fire it seemed by itself did blaze
as if mad in death-stricken Mary’s stead
Unable to stop Jack performing his trade
The whole scene bemoaned by “The Fisherman’s Widow”
That looked on as Mary
was coldly arranged in a heap on her bed.

So there it was, at 13 Miller’s Court
Saucy Jack concluded his catalogue of canonical five
Sweet Ginger was slashed at nights heavy decline
A devil’s display for the morrow to morn.

When at first light the landlord would call
no coins were hence collected at 13 Miller’s Court
from poor Mary Jane

O Mary Jane, O my love.
They called her Dark Emma, Mad Mary, and more-
but for me she was nothing
but Sweet Mary Jane.


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