On moonlit heath and lonesome bank The sheep beside me graze; And yon the gallows used to clank Fast by the four cross ways. A careless shepherd once would keep The flock by moonlight there, And high amongst the glimmering sheep The dead man stood on air. They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail: The whistles blow forlorn, And trains all night groan on the rail To men that die at morn. There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night, Or wakes, as may betide, A better lad, if things went right, Than most that sleep outside. And naked to the hangman’s noose The morning clocks will ring A neck God made for other use Than strangling in a string. And sharp the link of life will snap, And dead on air will stand Heels that held up as straight a chap As treads upon the land. So here I’ll watch the night and wait To see the morning shine, When he will hear the stroke of eight And not the stroke of nine; And wish my friend as sound a sleep As lads’ I did not know, That shepherded the moonlit sheep A hundred years ago.
This poem is in the public domain.