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They're taking me to the gallows, mother--they mean to hang me high;
They're going to gather round me there, and watch me till I die;

These are the opening lines of Will Carleton's poem, DEATH-DOOMED, which was published in his book, Poems, in 1871, and again in his book, Farm Ballads, in 1873 and in other books and periodicals.

Will Carleton is Michigan's "Poet of the People".

With the Public Act 51 of 1919, the Michigan legislature passed into law making it a duty upon teachers to teach at least one of his poems to children in school, and October 21st was officially named as Will Carleton Day in Michigan.
If you aren't familiar with his poetry, I urge you to indulge. Two of his more famous poems are Betsy and I Are Out and Over the Hill to the Poor House, both found in Farm Ballads.

The simple fact of the matter is that we know that our states have ended the lives of innocent people. The way to prevent this tragedy from happening again is to abolish the death penalty.

Tomorrow, three weeks will have passed since Troy Davis was executed.

Please consider signing the White House petitions, STOP the Death Penality Now in Memory of Troy Davis, and Abolish the death penalty, at We the People.

Most of his poems are now in the public domain. The text of DEATH-DOOMED is below the divider:

DEATH-DOOMED.

They're taking me to the gallows, mother--they mean to hang me high;
They're going to gather round me there, and watch me till I die;
All earthly joy has vanished now, and gone each mortal hope,--
They'll draw a cap across my eyes, and round my neck a rope;
The crazy mob will shout and groan--the priest will read a prayer,
The drop will fall beneath my feet and leave me in the air.
They think I murdered Allen Bayne; for so the Judge has said,
And they'll hang me to the gallows, mother--hang me till I'm dead!

The grass that grows in yonder meadow, the lambs that skip and play,
The pebbled brook behind the orchard, that laughs upon its way,
The flowers that bloom in the dear old garden, the birds that sing
and fly,
Are clear and pure of human blood, and, mother, so am I!
By father's grave on yonder hill--his name without a stain--
I ne'er had malice in my heart, or murdered Allen Bayne!
But twelve good men have found me guilty, for so the Judge has said,
And they'll hang me to the gallows, mother--hang me till I'm dead!

The air is fresh and bracing, mother; the sun shines bright and high;
It is a pleasant day to live--a gloomy one to die!
It is a bright and glorious day the joys of earth to grasp--
It is a sad and wretched one to strangle, choke, and gasp!
But let them damp my lofty spirit, or cow me if they can!
They send me like a rogue to death--I'll meet it like a man;
For I never murdered Allen Bayne! but so the Judge has said,
And they'll hang me to the gallows, mother--hang me till I'm dead!

Poor little sister 'Bell will weep, and kiss me as I lie;
But kiss her twice and thrice for me, and tell her not to cry;
Tell her to weave a bright, gay garland, and crown me as of yore,
Then plant a lily upon my grave, and think of me no more.
And tell that maiden whose love I sought, that I was faithful yet;
But I must lie in a felon's grave, and she had best forget.
My memory is stained forever; for so the Judge has said,
And they'll hang me to the gallows, mother--hang me till I'm dead!

Lay me not down by my father's side; for once, I mind, he said
No child that stained his spotless name should share his mortal bed.
Old friends would look beyond his grave, to my dishonored one,
And hide the virtues of the sire behind the recreant son.
And I can fancy, if there my corse its fettered limbs should lay,
His frowning skull and crumbling bones would shrink from me away;
But I swear to God I'm innocent, and never blood have shed!
And they'll hang me to the gallows, mother--hang me till I'm dead!

Lay me in my coffin, mother, as you've sometimes seen me rest:
One of my arms beneath my head, the other on my breast.
Place my Bible upon my heart--nay, mother, do not weep--
And kiss me as in happier days you kissed me when asleep.
And for the rest--for form or rite--but little do I reck;
But cover up that cursed stain--the black mark on my neck!
And pray to God for his great mercy on my devoted head;
For they'll hang me to the gallows, mother--hang me till I'm dead!

But hark! I hear a mighty murmur among the jostling crowd!
A cry!--a shout!--a roar of voices!--it echoes long and loud!
There dashes a horseman with foaming steed and tightly-gathered rein!
He sits erect!--he waves his hand!--good Heaven! 'tis Allen Bayne!
The lost is found, the dead alive, my safety is achieved!
For he waves his hand again, and shouts, "The prisoner is reprieved!"
Now, mother, praise the God you love, and raise your drooping head;
For the murderous gallows, black and grim, is cheated of its dead!

Originally posted to GrumpyOldGeek on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 01:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    swampyankee, tardis10, x

    "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 01:02:37 AM PDT

  •  tipped,rec'd and signed. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GrumpyOldGeek, x

    One of the ladies at the nursing home I worked at,used to recite 'Over The Hill To The Poor House.' on a regular basis.
     Liz did a darn good rendition of it,too.She was in her 90s
    and had memorized it to recite for school-80 odd years ago.
     Right about that time I found a book of 'Victorian Parlour
    Poetry' which contained that and the other two.I got two copies -one for Liz,and one for me.
     She read 'Death Doomed' to me.

     

    Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

    by swampyankee on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 01:28:21 AM PDT

    •  I bet she grew up in Michigan (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      swampyankee, x

      Liz had to be a wonderful lady to have known.

      I dragged my teenage sons kicking and screaming to Florida to meet their step-ggrandmother who was 101 at the time. They fell in love with her after a few minutes. They peppered her with questions once they realized that she remembered the details of day to day life. Before TV, airplanes, cars, electricity, telephones, radio, etc.

      My boys listened to her rattle off the names and markings of every single horse she ever owned as a girl and young woman. Not bad for 101, I'd say.

      She one of three people I've known who were alive in three different centuries.

      "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 03:28:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually,no-Liz was a Vermonter. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GrumpyOldGeek, x

        Born there,in 1898.Six feet tall,in her prime,red-headed and feisty.Her long term memory was phenomenal.She liked old songs and poetry-remembered quite a few of them from her youth  and her school days.
         She was probably reading McGuffy's Readers.I know she went to a one room school house.
         I was very fond of Liz.
         

        Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

        by swampyankee on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 06:50:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Don't want to hijack your kind offering, (0+ / 0-)

    but history would seem to prove definitively that focusing on the victims of injustice does not bring injustice and deprivation to a halt.

    The people who deprive others of their rights, including their lives, have to be stopped.  It's hard, very hard, in part because people have discovered that, when they operate through surrogates (like the police in Boston tonight), the victims and their defenders are prevented from knowing who's directly responsible.  Which is, of course, the purpose of triangulation.

    Triangulation works like this: A, who has a gripe, prompts B, who's got no gripe, to attack C, who's not only surprised, but has no clue against whom to retaliate.  If the attack is not too violent, C may be inclined to save himself the trouble of wasting energy, and not fight against the unknown.
    What an observer might ask is why A bothers to surreptitiously instigate an attack.  The answer, I would offer, is that some people get a high from being destructive without risking injury to themselves. They're obnoxious, but they're also cowards.  
    Triangulation is the hallmark of the coward. It comes in several flavors: kidnapping, terrorism, suicide bombings, public executions.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 03:42:59 AM PDT

    •  Not signing the death penalty abolition petition, (0+ / 0-)

      then, I assume.

      I'm obviously trying to appeal to emotion here. Death-Doomed is an emotionally charged poem relevant to the idea of the falsly-accused.

      I'm mostly looking for more people willing to sign the petitions. They're pitifully short of the 5,000 needed. If this motivates a few more to sign, then I'm good.

      I understand that a couple of petitions won't have any real effect. The We the People petition drives do offer a way to deliver a focused message to the White House staff. I figure that it might have more impact than just writing a few letters.

      You're right about the way that they use triangulation to avoid responsibility. They are cowards. No question. The top level has absolutely no skin in the game and they're not interested in creating another wedge issue right now. So nothing will happen quickly.

      Yes, history has shown that this is a difficult issue to resolve and that emotional appeals won't do the trick. History also shows that nearly every other modern western nation has abolished the death penalty. There is a way to got it done.

      This post is a communications issue, nothing more.

      One small step at a time.

      "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 05:46:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't "sign" petitions, especially not on (0+ / 0-)

        the internet where they tend to be an exercise in collecting addresses of people whose "interests" are thereby identified for marketing purposes.

        I certainly think the cold blooded killing of people by the state ought to be an issue in the selection and election of public officials at all levels.  That it's legal doesn't make it moral.  Barack Obama made reference to that in connection to the banks.  It might be good to turn his attention to the role of the Chief Executive in consigning people to a premature death.  There have been no executions in the federal prison system since 2003.  However, there are over 50 people languishing on death row.

        Personally, I think it's cowardly to order someone to kill in cold blood.  Doing Pontius Pilate many better hardly seems like progress.

        People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

        by hannah on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 06:25:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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