Monthly Archives: December 2014

In Memoriam

Today’s post is interesting because it is a poem written in memory of someone you would probably describe as ‘ordinary’ in the sense that he doesn’t feature as a well-known historical name in Teignmouth’s past.

He is the Reverend Anson Cartwright who lived at Brimley House, Teignmouth, until his death in 1903. No book has been written about him, yet if you check out his page at the end of the poem you’ll see that he seems to have been quite a pillar of Teignmouth society at the end of the 19th century.  He contributed through a variety of public service roles on the Council, politically and for charitable concerns (e.g. the Newton Board of Guardians).

If you remember, the Cartwright name as an eminent family in Teignmouth first appeared in Isaac Gompertz’s 1825 poem ‘Devon’.

Anyway, Thomas Aggett felt that the passing of Reverend Cartwright should be remembered in his collection of Vagabond Verses.

‘In Memoriam’ Reverend Cartwright
(Thomas Aggett)

O Mother Earth! But thou hast claimed
A noble and a worthy son,
Whose soul to goodness ever aimed
And evil practices did shun.

He came to counsel and to teach,
He truly loved his fellow men,
His heart was warm with love for each,
His mission was successful then.

His kindly face, his genial smile,
Were welcomed both by rich and poor,
And words of wisdom all the while
There came from a well-garnered store.

A kindly voice to sympathise;
His actions all were good and just,
Now we behold, with moistened eyes,
All that remains laid in the dust.

O Mother Earth! But thou hast claimed
A brother, and a noble one,
To Heaven, the goal for which he aimed,
His soul went with the rising sun.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Reverend Anson W H Cartwright …..

The Legend of Teignmouth

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Today’s poem is a curious post. It is called ‘The Legend of Teignmouth’ and appears to be about Sir Francis Drake (though only mentioned as ‘Sir Francis’). Unless anyone knows any different I think the poet, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, might have got it wrong!

She was an early 19th century poet living in London. I suspect she hadn’t been to the West Country but moved in circles where Teignmouth would have been known and spoken about. So maybe she inadvertently associated Drake with Teignmouth rather than Tavistock where he was born. Who knows? Anyway it is called what is called and therefore, mistaken or not, it deserves a place in this collection.

(Incidentally, Thomas Aggett referred to his poem ‘Parson and the Clerk’ as ‘A legend of Teignmouth’ and, as we saw in the last post, Elias Parish Alvars composed a piece of music also entitled ‘Legend of Teignmouth’).

A Legend of Teignmouth
(Letitia Elizabeth Landon)

A story of the olden time, when hearts
Wore truer faith than now—a carved stone
Is in a little ancient church which stands
‘Mid yonder trees, ’tis now almost defaced;
But careful eye may trace the mould’ring lines,
And kind tradition has preserved the tale;
I tell it nearly in the very words
Which are the common legend.

Some few brief hours, my gallant bark,
And we shall see the shore;
My native, and my beautiful,
That I will leave no more.

And gallantly the white sails swept
On, on before the wind;
The prow dash’d through the foam and left
A sparkling line behind.

The sun look’d out through the blue sky,
A gladsome summer sun;
The white cliffs like his mirrors show
Their native land is won.

And gladly from the tall ship’s side,
Sir Francis hail’d the land,
And gladly in his swiftest boat,
Row’d onward to the strand.

“I see my father’s castle walls
Look down upon the sea;
The red wine will flow there to-night,
And all for love of me.

“I left a gentle maiden there:
For all the tales they say
Of woman’s wrong and faithlessness
To him who is away;

“I’ll wager on her lily hand,
Where’s still a golden ring;
But, lady, ’tis a plainer one
That o’er the seas I bring.”

His bugle sound the turret swept
They meet him in the hall;
But ‘mid dear faces where is hers,
The dearest of them all?

Ah! every brow is dark and sad,
And every voice is low;
His bosom beats not as it beat
A little while ago.

They lead him to a darken’d room.
A heavy pall they raise;
A face looks forth as beautiful
As in its living days.

A ring is yet upon the hand,
Sir Francis, worn for thee.
Alas! that such a clay-cold hand,
Should true love’s welcome be!

He kiss’d that pale and lovely mouth,
He laid her in the grave;
And then again Sir Francis sail’d
Far o’er the ocean wave.

To east and west, to north and south,
That mariner was known;
A wanderer bound to many a shore,
But never to his own.

At length the time appointed came,
He knew that it was come;
With pallid brow and wasted frame,
That mariner sought home.

The worn-out vessel reach’d the shore,
The weary sails sank down;
The seamen clear’d her of the spoils
From many an Indian town.

And then Sir Francis fired the ship;
Yet tears were in his eyes,
When the last blaze of those old planks
Died in the midnight skies.

Next morning, ’twas a Sabbath morn
They sought that church, to pray;
And cold beside his maiden’s tomb
The brave Sir Francis lay.

O, Death! the pitying that restored
The lover to his bride;
Once more the marble was unclosed,
They laid him at her side.

And still the evening sunshine sheds
Its beauty o’er that tomb;
Like heaven’s own hope, to mitigate
Earth’s too unkindly doom.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Elias Parish Alvars

Elias Parish Alvars

Elias Parish Alvars

Boxing Day and the occasion of the annual “Walk in the sea” to raise money for the RNLI – remembered last year through the post “We Honour Them“.

Today’s post though continues the theme of people and, in particular, the links with music.  There have been a few posts already about folk songs, shanties, poems in music but today is about the harp.

I found the following poem in one of the pamphlets of the Teignmouth Heritage Centre.

Elias Parish Alvars was a gifted harpist, born in Teignmouth in 1808. To pursue his musical career he moved to Austria. Hector Berlioz described him as “prodigious” and “the Lizst of the harp”. Follow the link after the poem for more about his life.

He died young, at the age of 41, and this poem was written on his death by an old and sincere friend, noted in the pamphlet as “Warwick”.

Parish Alvars

O’er Mendelssohn the cypress tree
Was scarcely planted near
Ere weeping willows bend, we see,
To shadow Alvars’ bier

Spirits of air, the host on high
Will hail ye with delight.
Genius like yours can never die,
Twin spirits now of light.

Bards of Ossian, tune your lay
With silver harps so sweet.
To charm the bard of our day
His kindred souls to meet.

He lives again, whose works remain,
Displaying music’s art:
And he will in that region reign
The memory of the heart.

England may proudly boast his birth,
Till into manhood grown;
The Germans knowing well his worth,
had claimed him as their own.

Want to know more? Check out:

Elias Parish Alvars …..

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Brunel by the chains of the Great Eastern

Brunel by the chains of the Great Eastern

Back to the railway today.  There have already been a couple of posts on this theme – ‘All Aboard The Engine‘ and ‘The Great Western Railway Record Run‘.

Today is another song, a round in four parts written by David Haines – one of the repertoire of the South Devon Singers. This is in celebration of the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. His life is littered with achievements but he is remembered locally of course for the construction of the railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

Ahead of his time he designed this originally as an “atmospheric railway”, essentially powered by vacuum, but like many visionary ideas this was thwarted by the inability of technology to keep up. Sadly the atmospheric railway failed but the legacy was the current stretch of track often described as one of the ‘great railway journeys of the world’.

His other connection with Teignmouth is a ‘magical’ one – follow the link at the end to find out.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
(David Haines, May 2010)

Isambard, it ain’t hard
to see why he’s the leading engineer of his generation
Railways, ships, bridges, weapons, trains
Even designed Paddington Station.

Great Western, Great Britain, Great Eastern
Each the greatest ship of its day
Royal Albert, Clifton Suspension, Maidenhead Railway
Each bridge unique in its way

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Atmospheric Railway
Driven by a vacuum from Exeter to Newton Abbot by the sea
Prefabricated Hospitals for soldiers, many lives saved.
Florence Nightingale was pleased

(Note: A round to be sung in four parts, in ‘Swung Rhythm’)

Want to know more?  Check out:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel …..
South Devon Singers …..

Keats at Teignmouth

Charles Causley

Charles Causley

So, moving on to people.  Almost inevitably we keep returning to Keats and there are still more to come.

We have already seen a sonnet that Wilfred Owen wrote about his ‘hero’ Keats. Here is another eulogy to Keats, this time from the poet Charles Causley.  It is one of his earliest poems and comes from his ‘Collected Poems 1951-1997’.

If you want to feel the full power of his words try walking the ‘wild sea-wall’ and reading this out loud whilst standing on the point at Teignmouth!

Keats At Teignmouth – Spring 1818
(Charles Causley)

By the wild sea-wall I wandered
Blinded by the salting sun,
While the sulky Channel thundered
Like an old Trafalgar gun.

And I watched the gaudy river
Under trees of lemon-green,
Coiling like a scarlet bugle
Through the valley of the Teign.

When spring fired her fusilladoes
Salt-spray, sea-spray on the sill,
When the budding scarf of April
Ravelled on the Devon hill.

Then I saw the crystal poet
Leaning on the old sea-rail;
In his breast lay death, the lover,
In his head, the nightingale.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Charles Causley …..
Poetry Walk …..



Devon A Poem

Devon A Poem

We’ve completed the walk along the sea-front and up to Haldon.  Now we drop down from Lidwell back to Teignmouth and a new batch of poems, picking up a theme of ‘people’.

We return to the nineteenth century with today’s post which is a selection of snippets from a poem called “Devon” written by Isaac Gompertz in 1825 and published by E.Croydon at the Public Library in Teignmouth. The poem is a sort of historical travelogue in verse, but has some interesting references to various people who moved in the social circles of Teignmouth of that time.

It is 37 pages long so I have just selected snippets which relate to the areas around Teignmouth. There are a series of notes at the end of the poem which explain some of the references in the poem and I have included these after each snippet of verse where appropriate.

(I. Gompertz)

While o’er the borders of the fluent Teign
and Ocean wide in retrospect expands,
Thro’ Devon’s undulating sylvan haunts
To upland scenes of wood and water borne, …..(P1)

 Note 2: “The scene of the Poem is placed near Teignmouth, of which the Teignmouth Guide observes — ”To the antiquary the Town of Teignmouth from its age, being coeval with the Caer Isca or city of Exeter, must be a place of interest — indeed a Note in Polwhele mentions Phoenician Coins, to have been found there; and added to this a Roman Causeway was found not long since, in building a Bridge at Teigngrace;”

Exalted on this elevated site,
Delightful on this eminence alone.
Earth, sky, and sea, and crags abrupt to view,
And Hills cerulean melting into air. — ….. (P3)

 Note 4: – “The Hill (page 3 line 5), called Cork-screw Hill in the road to Bishopsteignton”

“And gently flows the glassy Teign our guide;
While in the rear still widely ocean spreads.
Like human life to drear eternity- “ ….. (P18)

Note 8: – (Page 18 line 7) – extract from the Teignmouth Guide p6 about the river Teign

Descend we from these gay enamel’d slopes,
And retrospective take a bolder flight,
Where less familiar objects strike the gaze,
On Holcombe’s brow stupendous, where behold,
The awful swells, as billows of the deep,
Precipitate arrested in their course. ….. (P23)

Note 11 – (Page 23, line 11) – Holcombe Down is situated near Little Haldon, on which the Guide observes ”Little Haldon, from whence is a bird’s-eye view of all the surrounding Country, as well as, a commanding view of the channel the Exe and the Teign”

Then bid adieu! But yet askaunt behold
The beauteous Exe, and Teign, two lucid streams,
That pour at once their tribute to the main;” (P32)

 Note 13: – (page 32, line 16) – “From this point of Holcombe Down, you see to the west Teignmouth, the River Teign, Shaldon, its adjacent hamlets, Shaldon Hill, and the Ness …..”

“Nor be the Cartwrights (14) Lucas (l5) Luny (l6) Strutt (17)
And Tonkin (18) — men of science and of taste, —
(And with their circles graced of Ladies fair)
Forgot — in this bless’d province of our Isle,! (P35)

 Note 14: – (page 35, line 4) – “The Cartwrights, – skilful Surgeons of Teignmouth, an amiable and accomplished family”

Note 15: – (page 35, line 4) – “Lucas – an eminent Doctor of Medicine, possessing great taste in arts, likewise an amiable family of Teignmouth”

Note 16: – (page 35, line 4) – “Luny – a celebrated Marine Painter, who is the more remarkable for being so great an invalid, and martyr to the Rheumatic Gout, as to be nearly deprived of the use of his members, and is under the necessity of having even his pencil put into his hand.”

Note 17: – (page 35, line 4) – “Strutt – a very excellent Artist, possessing great versatility of talent equally eminent as a miniature and Landscape Painter, also an amiable character and a Dissenting Clergyman.”

Note 18: – (page 35, line 5) – “Tonkin – there are a few Gentlemen in the county more generally known, and none more respected than Captain Tonkin to which the universality of his talents, and his scientific pursuits, greatly contribute.”

Want to know more?  Check out:

Isaac Gompertz …..

The Lidwell Monk

Lidwell Chapel

Lidwell Chapel

I couldn’t resist the temptation to escape briefly from 19th century verse and do a different (and shorter!) take on the Monk of Haldon story, so here’s my attempt.

Enjoy …..


The Lidwell Monk

Part I

The moor mists disturbed the traveller’s soul,
blurring the weft of the fluttering robe,
clothing the friar, and frayed by the devil’s breath.

The moor mists whispered in the traveller’s ear,
soft-singing the swell of the siren’s thrall,
“come, come, come on down, to My Lady’s Well”.

The moor mists kissed the traveller’s cheek
as he drifted to that lilt off the wheel-rutted path,
lit by the sprites of the fire-damp lamps.

The moor mists lingered on the traveller’s face
to the fingering reel of the Lidwell monk
where the spring of My Lady flows free.

The moor mists clung to the traveller’s throat
at the sting of the blade that slit to the bone
and the throb of his blood down the well.

The moor mists swirled, curling back to the road,
unfurling the robe of the Lidwell monk,
rehearsing the song of the siren’s thrall
to lure another traveller’s soul.

Part II

The moor mists dispersed as the full moon rose
lifting the curse for the sailor come home,
the sailor come home from the sea.

The sirens still sang of My Lady’s home
but his blood ran cold at the sight of the monk
offering the travellers’ dole.

He ate of the bread and he drank of the wine
and his head felt dull on the palliasse bed
that lulled him and soothed him to rest.

Then his eyes caught the glint of the flashing blade
and the grin of the monk in the windowed moon
and his gauntlet bore the bite of the knife

Whilst his cutlass tore through the thickness of night
and carved into two the monk from his head
dropping deep, down deep to My Lady’s well.

Now on Haldon moor when the moor mists swirl
you must still take care though you’re pure of heart,
for I’ve heard that there the ghost of the monk
still lurks at My Lady’s well.

Want to know more?  Check out:

The Legend …..
Monk of Haldon Poem …..


The Monk of Haldon

Lidwell Chapel

Lidwell Chapel

Heading back to Teignmouth across the top of Haldon brings us to another legend. We are following what would have been one of the original crossings of the moor, now the B3192, from Exeter to Teignmouth.

As you reach Teignmouth golf course take a narrow path opposite on the left-hand side, down into a Blair-Witch-like world of dark woods and putrefying marsh. Here you will find the ruins of Lidwell chapel, site of the legendary perfidious deeds of the mad monk of Haldon who would lure unwary travellers down to the chapel and murder them as they slept.

There are many versions of the story but this is the only one I have found which has been written in verse. You can imagine it being recited at some Victorian soiree. It is by R.H.D.Barham who is buried in the church graveyard in Dawlish and was first published in Temple Bar: A London Magazine, Volume 20, 1867.

It is LONG but it’s an easy read and I can not shorten or select from it because it stands in its entirety as a story.  (Look out for the reference to Byron)

(R. H. D. Barham)

Kind Reader, if ever your fancy incline
To visit fair Exeter’s city and shrine,
Don’t baulk her,—but start at a quarter past nine;
You’ll get down in time for a stroll ere you dine,
And you’ll find at the Clarence some very fair wine.
When lodged there, I pray,
Devote one fine day
To a visit to Haldon—it’s not far away,
And the view and the air will your trouble repay;
Indeed, if you’re hipped, out of spirits, or ill,
Better by pounds than a potion or pill,
Is a summer-day’s run upon Haldon Hill.

Never, I ween, has fairer scene—
Sapphire-blue and emerald-green,
With the glow of the red red rock between,
Bathed in a glory of golden sheen,—
Gladdened your heart, or dazzled your een.
There tarry a while, and gaze your fill,
From Berry Head to Portland Bill;
Or turn your face to the north if you will,
Where the Dartmoor range lies gloomy and still,
And I’ll wager a crown
When you get back to town,
Bright visions will haunt you of Haldon Hill.

Yes! it’s all very fine
In the blaze of sunshine,
Or ‘neath the mild lustre that gilds his decline
(I’ve to thank Mr. Canning for this latter line),
To lounge upon Haldon, or lie there supine:
When daylight goes,
C’est tout autre chose,
When darkness lowers and night falls chill,
Steer clear, if you’re wise, of Haldon Hill.

But supposing you now at the end of your ride,
Leave your horse at the tower—there ask for a guide,
And bid him proceed to the southern hill-side,
Where, hid in a coppice of nut-trees and apple,
The ruin still stands of a quaint little chapel.
It’s not often shown,
Nor very well known,
And it’s not very easy to find it alone:
This I discovered on being despatched to it
As a place with a rather strange story attached to it.

It stands on a spot
Quite sheltered, but not,
I should think, in the dog-days unpleasantly hot;
While the heath and the broom
Clothe the sides of the combe,
And oppress, as Lord B. says, the air with perfume;
Yet there it is left all deserted to rot,
With not a house near, not a cabin or cot!
Still more, when you gaze on the exquisite view from it,
You’ll wonder why folks so completely withdrew from it.

To the right, under Haldon,
Lie Teignmouth and Shaldon,
With hamlets, whose names to recount I’m not called on:
Between them the Teign rolls her eddying flood,
The stream looking tinted and turbid with blood;
But it’s only the rain that has stirred up the mud!
It’s certainly odd that this part of the coast,
While neighbouring Dorset gleams white as a ghost,
Should look like anchovy sauce spread upon toast!
We need not now pause
To find out the cause
Of this variation in natural laws;
But Mr. Pengelly
Can easily tell ye,—
(I think, by the way, that the gentleman said,
‘Twas iron or manganese made it so red).

Then low at your feet,
From this airy retreat,
Reaching down where the fresh and the salt water meet,
The roofs may be seen of an old-fashioned street;
Half village—half town, it is—pleasant but smallish,
And known, where it happens to be known, as Dawlish;
A place I’d suggest
As one of the best
For a man breaking down who needs absolute rest,
Especially too, if he’s weak in the chest.
Torquay may be gayer,
But as for the air,
It really can not for a moment compare
With snug little Dawlish—at least, so they say here.

Well, ages ago, as the old people tell,
Was built this rude structure—half chapel, half cell;
And I’m greatly inclined
To think it designed
To serve as a sort of a lighthouse as well.
And here, all the year,
With not a soul near,
(He found it uncommonly dull, I should fear),
In the meanest of robes, on the poorest of cheer,
A monk was deputed from Sidmouth to dwell;
And the good man, ‘tis said,
When retiring to bed,
Never blew out his candle, but placed it instead
In the belfry, some ten or twelve feet over head.
And when on the hills fog or thick darkness fell,
‘Twas his duty besides to ” attend to the bell;”
He knolled and he tolled
All night in the cold,
A guide to belated folks crossing the wold;
And many a traveller warned by the knell,
Blessed the good monk of Saint Mary’s Well.

And when a monk died,
His place was supplied
By another, who slept in due time by his side.
So ever anon,
As time wore on,
A monk appeared and a monk was gone:
At length came one who was named Friar John!
Now Friar John was stout and strong,
His figure was rather broad than long;
Some five feet six in his sandals he stood,—
Uncommonly short, but uncommonly good!
But then, to be just,—
Confess it, I must,
His features weren’t what I’ve heard called uppercrust,
But were vulgar and coarse—of a colour like rust;
His hair, what he had, and he hadn’t got much of it,
If not a pure red, at least had a touch of it.
And some said his eyes,
Unequal in size,
Were like one and sixpence,—’Twas merely surmise;
While other folks yet more maliciously hinted,
The excellent man unmistakably squinted.
I say ’twas surmise, for in study profound,
He kept his eyes constantly fixed on the ground;
Still enough could be seen
Of his face and his mien
To cause the young ladies a deal of chagrin;
They one and all felt disappointment and pain
That so good a man should be so very plain!

But one thing the neighbours could not understand,—
Not a soul in the parish had seen his right hand!
Whatever the office, when called on to minister,
The hand that he used was always the sinister!
They came to confess—
He raised it to bless;
The other was kept close concealed in his dress!
Well, they said it looked odd, and they couldn’t say less.
But one hand or two,
Not a monk of the crew
Ever made with his bell such a precious ado—
He pulled at the rope all the blessed night through!
And then up aloft in the belfry he fixes,
Not one wretched rushlight, but two pair of “sixes;”
And though when he preached, I fear very few heeded him,
‘Twas agreed that in zeal none had ever exceeded him.

‘Tis Christmas Eve, and the sun’s red ball
Sinks slowly, hid by a sable pall.
In gathering darkness fades the light,
And gloomy day in gloomier night—
Gloomier where than on Haldon height!
And the weather-glass shows a decided fall,
And the sea-weed turns very wet on the wall.
The darkness increases,
The rain never ceases,
But comes down in drops big as old penny pieces;
The winds from the west in a hurricane pour,
And the thunder-clouds burst on the Tors of Dartmoor.
The tempest yet heightens, and ‘mid the turmoil
A cry strange and fearsome sweeps down through the goyle;
Full well knows the shepherd what sound it may be,
And the shepherd’s dog crouches and quakes at his knee.
It comes—it has gone—borne by on the blast,
The dog wags his tail—the dread wish hounds are past!

Meantime, while the thunder above him is rolling,
The monk of Saint Mary keeps zealously tolling,—
A work which he’s clearly engaged heart and soul in;
When there falls on his ear
What he takes for a cheer,
Proceeding distinctly from somebody near;
Then a voice loud and hoarse,
Using terms which, if coarse,
Were expressive, demanded admission in-doors,
With a hint, as ’twas rather inclement without, it
Would be quite as well if he looked sharp about it.
As the monk, at the sound,
Turning hastily round,
Gives a start, and then jumps to the door at a bound,
An observer might spy
A queer light in his eye
(Supposing, of course, an observer were by),
Which he lifts with a glance half triumphant, half sly
(N.B.—It was really a little awry).
He opens—there enters with “Thank ye, my hearty !”
What bagmen and “swells ” call a seafaring party.

 That sailor’s bearing is pleasant to see—
Frank and free as a sailor’s may be;
His language, perhaps, is a trifle too free,
Abounding in words which begin with a D;
All which I omit, for I don’t see the fun of them,
And don’t mean to sully my pages with one of them.
The monk took them coolly,
Perhaps, thinking truly
The tongues of your sailors are always unruly,
Perhaps he was just a bit deaf in these cases,
Perhaps thought them purely professional phrases;
Nor did it seem greatly his feelings to shock,
When hailed by his guest as “a jolly old cock!”
Friar John, indeed, showed himself vastly polite,
Declared that he’d rung his bell long enough, quite,
Then stepped to the belfry, and brought down the light,
Addressed to the stranger a pressing invite
To make himself happy and snug for the night;
Bade him stir up the fire while he fetched a fresh log in,
As ’twas really not weather to turn out a dog in,
Then brought him a flagon to mix some hot grog in.

‘Tis bootless to say
How the night passed away,—
How the convives, becoming familiar and gay,
Drank out Christmas Eve, and drank in Christmas Day,
How they finished the flask,
Then went at the cask,
How the monk told his legends of magic and mystery,
While the sailor in turn gave some portions of his story:—
That ten years agone he was kidnapped at Dover,
And sent off to sea with Sir Rupert, the rover;
That after a long spell of bloodshed and pillage,
Sir Rupert attempted to sack a small village,
That the natives took heart, resisted and beat him,
And forthwith proceeded to cook him and eat him;
That he, sailor Jack, with a few of the crew,
Contrived in the melee to cut his way through;
And that after more cruizing, at Plymouth he’d landed,
And was now homeward bound by no means empty-handed : —
“There’s enough in that sack,” Friar John gave a start!
‘Twas a little affection, he said, of the heart;
“There’s enough of rich gems and red gold,” observed Jack,
“To fit out a ship, stowed away in that sack !”
“That sack ?” gasped the monk, and he started again—
(That heart of his caused him a good deal of pain,)
“Gold and gems!—why, my son, grievous perils beset ’em—
But, Good gracious me! where the deuce did you get ’em ?”

Jack stretched out his throat—gave a singular grin,
Drew his finger across it just under the chin,
And replied, it was that way he’d “picked up the tin!”
“What! cut people’s throats,
Like a sheep’s or a goat’s,
Or a pig’s! Bless my heart! is the man in his senses,
To think we can wink at such grievous offences!
As everyone knows,
I’m the last to impose
Any very extravagant penance on those
Who freely their little transgressions disclose;
And as to the fees,
People pay what they please,
We seldom or never fall out about these;
But murder! why, how do you hope to get clear of it ?
Suppose, my fine fellow, the Pope were to hear of it!”

Poor Jack looked alarmed at the aspect things wore;
It never had struck him in that light before;
He didn’t mind taking his chance of a rope,
But really he hadn’t once thought of the Pope:
“What’s to be done ? There’s the booty—let’s share it;
Can’t we in that manner manage to square it?”

The monk shook his head—didn’t know—was afraid—
‘Twas a serious matter that throat-cutting trade—
Well, he’d see—some arrangement perhaps might be made.
“Meanwhile,” urges John,
As a sine qua non,
“You must dip in the well, and you’d better come on.
It’s easily done,—when you’ve drawn up the bucket,
You’ve only to bend down your head, and then duck it.”

With sombre air and footstep slow,
Passed the monk that portal low;
He crossed the chapel’s narrow aisle—
Devoutly crossed himself the while;
Thrice he stirred that chapel bell,
Thrice the pond’rous clapper fell,
As though to toll
For a parting soul;
And Sailor Jack shook in his shoes at the knell,
As it heavily swung o’er the Holy Well.

Jack gazes down that dark profound—
Its depth they have never been able to sound,
It stretches away so far underground.
But what makes him shrink
As he bends to the brink?
Is it the liquor he’s taken to drink?
Is it the flash of some instinctive thought, or
Is it the unpleasant look of the water?

Or is it of imminent peril an inkling?
Whatever it is—he springs up in a twinkling!
He’s in time and that’s all—not a moment to spare!
For behind stands the monk—his right hand in the air,
And in it a poniard with blade bright and bare!
Down comes the blow—
“No,” says Jack, ” it’s no go,
You don’t quite come over a buccanier so!”
And he fastens like death on the throat of his foe.
The monk tries to twist,
By a turn of the wrist,
His arm from the vice of the other’s broad fist;
He might have succeeded with “lubbers ” or tailors,
It’s a different thing when the grip is a sailor’s.

With sinew taut, and tough as yew,
Face to face they stand—the two,
Till that of the monk grows alarmingly blue!
It’s very distressing
To find one compressing
Your windpipe, which let’s the pure air less and less in—
And the monk hadn’t breath enough left for a blessing.
Jack tightens his grasp till he feels that he reels,
Then tumbles him into the well neck and heels!
And showing no sort of concern for the body,
Goes quietly back and looks after his toddy.

The story got wind, and the folks far and near,
Assembled one morning with queer-looking gear,
And descended with ropes,
And great hooks, in the hopes
Of raising Friar John from his watery bier;
But after much poking,
And choking and soaking,
In that dark abyss, it was truly provoking
To find, when they dragged “the defunct” to the brim,
That it wasn’t the monk—’twas a great deal too slim,
And did not bear any resemblance to him!
So they went down again, and they picked up another,
But this was no more Friar John than the other!
The monk
Must have sunk;
But then an embarrassing question arose—
If such was the case, who on earth could be those
Whose presence so strongly affected the nose?

The matter throughout was with mystery blended,
Some thought that Saint Mary her priest had befriended,
While some for an opposite notion contended;
The “Crowner ” looked grave, and the inquest was ended,
With “Drowned but not found—least said soonest mended!”
They dismantled the chapel and melted the bell,
And placed a huge stone on the mouth of the well;
And moving the altar, imagine their wonder,
At finding a hollow receptacle under,
And filled, as Americans term it, with plunder!

As for Jack, from that moment an ill-fortune stuck to him—
Nothing he did seemed to bring change of luck to him;
The results of his cruise
Went to sharpers and Jews,
So he set sail again to rob, murder, and booze,
And after encount’ring wrecks, tempests, tornadoes,
Was finally lost off the coast of Barbadoes.
Of the well thus defiled, should you search for the site,
I much doubt if success will your trouble requite—
I’ve known people look for it morning and night.*
Still by exploring,
And digging and boring
The spots all around you might hit on the right—
If you wish, you can easily run down and try it;
Yet perhaps on reflection, ’tis better, you’ll own,
To leave undisturbed that great slab of lime-stone,
And minding the maxim, to—let well alone!

 (*I fancy at Teignton they show you a curious one,
but it isn’t the real well—it’s only a spurious one.)

Published in Temple Bar: A London Magazine, Volume 20, 1867
– ‘Goyle’ is dialect for a ravine.
– ‘Wish
hounds’ are a sort of ” Old Scratch ” pack, which is said to hunt, by night, the
country around Dartmoor.

Want to know more?  Check out:

R.H.D.Barham …..
Lidwell Chapel and the Monk of Haldon …..

Haldon Hill

Developments encroaching to the Haldon tree-line

Developments encroaching to the Haldon tree-line

Marianne Prowse described the idyllic Haldon she saw almost two hundred years ago. There is still moorland and forest but as you look down in almost all directions you see the signs of development, the theme of this poem. The city mentioned is probably Exeter but the encroaching building is evident in Teignmouth.

In 1830 the ‘Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay Guide’ commented: “A little further on, the lovely vale of Broad-meadow opens to the right, and takes the eye along its thickly-wooded inclosures, until it rest on the barren hill of Little Haldon.” Now there is an industrial estate, a large supermarket, a leisure centre and plans for housing development up that vale.

Here is John Libby’s almost apocalyptic view.

Haldon Hill
(John R Libby)

So stand on the heights
And think ‘What a pity’
Where once lay ploughed fields
Is now part of the city
Empty offices stand
Designed to be pretty
On the land that once wore
Spring’s green gown.

Oh those views of the summer
Those meadows that lay
Spread out before you
Golden with hay
Now bear precious street names
And gardens so gay
Dead hills of red brick
Running down.

And there’s areas now
Where the grass will not grow
Broken glass and cold concrete
And the river below
Has become Just a drain
Where the wild birds don’t go
Bikes and fridges are left there
To drown.

In this bowl of soft hills
That reach to the sky
Cry the ghosts of the creatures
Evicted to die
And what’s left for the children?
It’s no good just to sigh
When all they will see
Will be town.

The poem has been taken from ‘Poetry Now Regional Anthologies – The South West’, 1993, edited by Pat Wilson

Autumnal Musings

Haldon Views

Haldon Views

Another myth in a few days time.  In the mean time ….. the South West Coast Path heads inland briefly from the Parson and Clerk rocks.  Just as we did at the end of the walk along the estuary we are leaving the coast behind and climbing up to the Haldon hills with their superb and extensive views across the Exe estuary, the coast, the Teign estuary and Dartmoor to the north

As at the end of the walk along the Teign we now have another poem by Marion Prowse, friend in Teignmouth of John Keats.  It is called Autumnal Musings and is 38 verses long.  I have just selected those verses which have been ascribed to the Haldon hills in the poem notes which you can link to at the end of the poem.

Autumnal Musings
(Marianne Prowse, 1830)


Once – and once only – when the earth was rife
With great destruction – then the whelming deep
Rush’d back impetuously; and the dark strife
Hath left its records on yon misty steep1,
For things that wont their darksome homes to keep
In the ‘mid waters – on the land were cast,
Tokens that the Omnipotent had past.


Winds! that upon your errands come and go,
For ever – and for ever – and for ever –
Coeval with the ocean’s ebb and flow,
Types of Eternity, which we endeavour
With human pow’rs to fathom – finding never
Or bound or clue – Wand’rers can ye not tell,
Tales of yon piny mount and heath-clad dell?


Have ye not sung the Druid to his slumbers
Here on this tufted height – (perchance embower’d
By shade like this, where I these idle numbers
In weariness of heart do weave) – o’erpower’d
By the dim future, which all darkly shower’d
Came down like night – what visions did ye bring
The white-robed seer when he lay slumbering?


Hath not the fierce Dane felt your mighty breath2
Tossing the forest like the restless main,
While the half-savage ponder’d deeds of death
Stretch’d in his vast encampment? What remain
Of all the hosts that throng’d yon mountain plain –
The tumulus and its bleach’d bones – the mound
Heap’d by the human fruit that strew’d the ground.


More gentle off’rings do ye scatter now –
The tapering fir-cone and the beech nuts brown
Falling like rain – while from the floating bough
The agile squirrel as a bird darts down
To board th’abundant store, ere winter’s frown
Shall banish fruit and blossom from the earth,
Till Spring begins anew their dewy birth.


Thus spake I, till the last notes of the breeze
Were dying quite away – and the dim light
Grew into loveliness – the parting trees
Gave quiet glimpses of the Queen of night
Who floated up the arch of heav’n – bedight
With a soft glory, beaming love and joy,
As erst she look’d upon the Carian boy.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Poems by I S Prowse …..
The Haldon Hills …..
Poem Notes …..