In Celebration of One Year of ‘Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague’ by Jennifer Jenkins

These poems are written from the perspective of my three protagonists, Emmott Syddall, Catherine  Mompesson and Elizabeth  Hancock and were composed to mark the first publishing anniversary of Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague by Jennifer Jenkins. They are composed as sonnets, haikus and free verse poems.

  1.  

Here I wait amongst the flowers and trees

For the missing part of my heart to come

Its beat thumps along to the buzz of bees

My legs resist breaking into a run

I see him arrive before he sees me

So soon to be joined, just like my linnets

We await the parson’s solemn decree

And wish these years, these months, could be minutes

Here he is now, healthy, rugged and strong

I see him cast his eyes to look over me

No shadow of illness, no harm, no wrong

Befalls my fragile frame, he’s glad to see

We face each other across a green breach

A distance to keep, o’er which hearts reach.

Emmott Meets Rowland in Cucklett Delph

Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre continued their love affair across the distance at Cucklett Delph

2. 

Alas, he is gone

He who taught all, showed me how

To love on with nought.

Emmott mourns her father

Bagshaw House was the Syddall family home in 1665

3.

The light finds me like a blanket

That which holds me together unravels

Like stitches pulled asunder

And this luminous shroud holds me together now

I see him through its warp and weft

As if  peering through a tapestry of dreams

My fingers reach to touch

But he is nothing, as I am nothing

Only light, only air

And peace

Where now has my pain gone?

The gathering light has soothed it

And that which I was so loathe to leave

I now depart

Carried out on air, as light on love.

Emmott’s Death

4.

Their singing fills the chilly winter air

These souls so resisting this pain, this loss

While shepherds watched, a king delivered there

Through time, across lands, is given to us

The arrival of that helpless infant

A reminder now of our fragile state

This terrible villain, we bear the brunt

Await our rescue, yet accept our fate

But this night feels like it’s one for whispers

When hope might banish fear for just one eve

Though our future may yet be sinister

We sing as one, the healthy and bereaved

Oh tiny infant king hear our pleading

Show your ruined flock where this is leading.

Catherine on Christmas Eve

Catherine’s grave in Eyam Churchyard

5.

The welcome scent that fills my nostrils

That pungent promise of relief

The feathered fronds between my fingers

The tangible that beckons unfathomable release

The colours stripped from delicate petals

A rainbow covenant found within this bowl

Crushed together, by ancient mixture

Awaiting necks, chests, mouths

The encouragement to hearts to keep on beating

To bodies, their poisons to release

These herbal healers in my humble hands

No threat to prayer or hymn or creed

Yet still I feel his concerned frowning:

Must I choose herbs or husband

To be my saviour?

Catherine on apothecary

6.

I keep their image

Like portraits in galleries

One last time to view.

Catherine on saying goodbye to her children

Eyam Rectory, where Catherine Mompesson lived with her rector husband, William, and their children, George and Elizabeth

7.

Stay ye well away

Keep my illusion for now;

Riley, a fortress.

Elizabeth on the safety of Riley Farmhouse

The Riley Graves of the Hancock Family

8.

My hands again in the dirt and dust

The weight of you still clings to my back

No more your sweet laughter

Now claimed by soil and silenced

My heart so hard to locate;

Within my chest or buried deep below the dirt with you?

Where’re it resides, ‘tis bleeding

Yet my eyes be still dry

And a cry is trapped here in my parched throat

Fix the final layer upon you

Scatter clods of earth and stone

Petals for you my daughters

All gone, all silent, all below

With me left here above

Living should not feel like dying

And yet each heart beat is a betrayal

Why am I still here?

This question, my eternal pain.

Elizabeth on burying her children 

A now-iconic image of Elizabeth Hancock burying her dead
(from The Brave Men of Eyam, a book from the Victorian era)

9.

Take that one last look and whisper goodbye

Though they require the staying, I cannot

None of their preaching can answer why

I leave my family below dirt to rot

No unspoken bond shall now keep me

Where every sight reminds me they are gone

My joyous home now makes me angry

Once a fortress, offered sanctuary, none

My sobs carried on the pitiless winds

I water their graves with unending tears

Wonder what I missed of their guilt, their sins?

To me, all pure, the innocence of years

Yet now all taken, just my broken heart

I take on with me as I now depart.

Elizabeth on leaving the village

I hope you enjoyed these poems.

Thank you for reading these and your support of Three : A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague over the past year.

2nd May 2022

Jennifer Jenkins

Published by jenjenkins42

I am an author from a village outside of Rugby in Warwickshire. I love historical fiction. You will find me reading, hanging out with my husband, our two sons and our little dog, baking or walking.

One thought on “In Celebration of One Year of ‘Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague’ by Jennifer Jenkins

  1. I can empathise with the women’s words; so appropriate for the journey and experiences endured of each.

    Like

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