Bohemian legends and other poems/A Bohemian Legend

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For other English-language translations of this work, see The Noon Witch.


The little child stood on the bench,
And cried as loud as child can cry.
Will you be quiet, naughty one—
That is the way that gypsies cry.

Twelve o’clock will soon be striking,
And see the dinner is not done;
What will father say, you spoilt one,
When my work lies there all undone.

Hush! here are your playthings—wagon,
Horses, soldiers, whatever you will.”
Scarcely had she finished speaking,
All was thrown away with a will.

And the child began its howling,
Shrieking out like a thing possessed;
Hush! hush!” cried the tired mother,
So cry souls that die unconfessed.

Come witch—come and take her naughty—
Hush! hush! or I will call the witch.
Come witch, come and take her naughty—
Oh, good God! can that be the witch?”

Little humpback, horrible form,
Half revealed by the ample cloak,
In the room on crutches hobbling,
Came the witch; her voice was a croak.

Give me the child.” “Oh Holy Christ,
Forgive my sins,” the mother cried.
Ah, never from the room the witch
Will go, till one of us has died.”

She nears the table where they stand,
She creeps along as shadows creep.
The wretched mother hardly breathes—
She clasps her child, that does not weep.

Alas! alas! that fatal call;
Poor child, there is no help for thee.
The witch comes creeping, creeping on,
She stretches out her hand for thee.

She stretches out her hand to take—
The mother cannot keep her hold.
I pray ye by Christ’s wounds,” she calls,
But still she cannot keep her hold.

And senseless to the ground she falls,
Just as the clock begins to strike.
The father from his work comes home,
The look of things he does not like.

They brought the mother to herself—
But oh, the child upon her breast,
The little child she loved so well,
Had passed away to endless rest.