[Editor: This poem by Una Shaw was published in Birth: A Little Journal of Australian Poetry (Melbourne, Vic.), July 1922.]
The Three Black Cats
I walked across the village green,
Where wondrous things are sometimes seen;
When I looked up, the moon looked down —
Like a shiny half-a-crown.
I tip-toed on without a sound,
For seven stars were dancing round.
Seven stars, all white and cold,
But Jupiter was guinea-gold.
Little things beside my feet
Kept up a chirping low and sweet,
And little winds that love the moon
Whistled the leaves a dancing tune —
Little winds wandering by
Over the earth and through the sky.
I passed the churchyard, bright as day,
And sang to keep my fears away.
My song was all of foolish things,
Of ladies’ slippers and bright bird wings,
Of strawberries, and men-at-arms,
And milkmaids down at the Seven Farms.
I looked across the churchyard wall
And saw the wonder of it all:
Flowers were set in the deep grass,
Like candles lit at Candlemas,
And many a ghost was there to see:
John Sweetapple of the Willow Tree,
Dorcas, who practised spells and charms
For an hundred years at the Seven Farms;
And Roger Child, who drew the bow
At Agincourt long years ago.
I marked him by his bow of yew,
Which in this self-same churchyard grew
Well nigh four hundred years agone
(So said my grandsire, Honest John);
Old Drinkwater, from under the hill,
And Susan from the Wilcott Mill,
With her three black cats, Hob, Gob, and Jill.
Birth: A Little Journal of Australian Poetry (Melbourne, Vic.), July 1922, p. 60
Also published in:
The Register (Adelaide, SA), 19 August 1922, p. 4
Agincourt = (also spelt Azincourt) a village in northern France, near which the Battle of Agincourt was fought on 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin’s Day), during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, with the battle being won by the English forces, led by Henry V (it is considered that the English longbowmen played a decisive role in the victory)
agone = (archaic) ago (in times gone by, in times past)
Candlemas = a Christian holy day, celebrated on the 2nd of February, which commemorates the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple for purification (also known as the Presentation of the Lord, or the Presentation of Christ in the Temple); in the Catholic tradition, candles are brought to Mass on that day for a blessing, hence the term Candlemas (also spelt Candlemass)
See: 1) “Candlemas”, Time and Date AS
2) “Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights)”, Project Britain: British Life and Culture (Mandy Barrow)
3) “What is Candlemas Day?”, Catholic Straight Answers
half-a-crown = a half crown: a coin used in countries of the British Empire, or British Commonwealth, equivalent to two and a half shillings, i.e. two shillings and sixpence (a crown is equivalent to five shillings)
village green = an area of grassy public land (a common or park), especially one located in the centre of a village or a small town (also known as a “green”)
yew = a yew tree, a type of evergreen tree, the common name of various species in the family Taxaceae (especially applied to various coniferous trees in the genus Taxus); the wood of a yew tree; an archer’s bow (especially a long bow) made from the wood of a yew tree