The Fakenham Ghost: a Ballad


The Lawns were dry in Euston Park;
(Here Truth [1]  inspires my Tale)
The lonely footpath, still and dark,
Led over Hill and Dale.
Benighted was an ancient Dame,5
And fearful haste she made
To gain the vale of Fakenham,
And hail its Willow shade.
Her footsteps knew no idle stops,
But follow’d faster still;10
And echo’d to the darksome Copse
That whisper’d on the Hill;
Where clam’rous Rooks, yet scarcely hush’d,
Bespoke a peopled shade;
And many a wing the foliage brush’d,15
And hov’ring circuits made.
The dappled herd of grazing Deer
That sought the Shades by day,
Now started from her path with fear,
And gave the Stranger way.20
Darker it grew; and darker fears
Came o’er her troubled mind;
When now, a short quick step she hears
Come patting close behind.
She turn’d; it stopt;—nought could she see25
Upon the gloomy plain!
But, as she strove the Sprite to flee,
She heard the same again.
Now terror seiz’d her quaking frame:
For, where the path was bare,30
The trotting Ghost kept on the same!
She mutter’d many a pray’r.
Yet once again, amidst her fright
She tried what sight could do;
When through the cheating glooms of night,35
A MONSTER stood in view.
Regardless of whate’er she felt,
It follow’d down the plain!
She own’d her sins, and down she knelt,
And said her pray’rs again.40
Then on she sped: and Hope grew strong,
The white park-gate in view;
Which pushing hard, so long it swung
That Ghost and all pass’d through.
Loud fell the gate against the post!45
Her heart-strings like to crack:
For, much she fear’d the grisly Ghost
Would leap upon her back.
Still on, pat, pat, the Goblin went,
As it had done before:—50
Her strength and resolution spent,
She fainted at the door.
Out came her Husband, much surpris’d:
Out came her Daughter dear:
Good-natur’d Souls! all unadvis’d55
Of what they had to fear.
The Candle’s gleam pierc’d through the night,
Some short space o’er the green;
And there the little trotting Sprite
Distinctly might be seen.60
An Ass’s Foal had lost its Dam
Within the spacious Park;
And simple as the playful Lamb,
Had follow’d in the dark.
No Goblin he; no imp of sin:65
No crimes had ever known.
They took the shaggy stranger in,
And rear’d him as their own.
His little hoofs would rattle round
Upon the Cottage floor:70
The Matron learn’d to love the sound
That frighten’d her before.
A favorite the Ghost became;
And, ’twas his fate to thrive:
And long he liv’d and spread his fame,75
And kept the joke alive.
For many a laugh went through the Vale;
And some conviction too:—
Each thought some other Goblin tale,
Perhaps, was just as true. [2] 80


[1] [All edns add note:] This Ballad is founded on a fact. The circumstance occurred perhaps long before I was born: but is still related by my Mother, and some of the oldest inhabitants in that part of the country. R. B. BACK

[2] [1st edn, 1st state adds note:] A charming little story: excellently told: and most pleasingly and pointedly concluded. C. L. Sept. 1801.] omitted in 1st edn, 2nd state and later edns BACK