The Ballad of Bertrand and Emmelyne

The lonesome meadowlark perched on the branch of yew
Coos sweet mystic melodies to the Wandering Jew
Who, travelling to the village where tombstone sailors lie
Hopes to cast off his curse, hands groping at the sky
With rugged look and hat and coat stolen from the hole
And with the name of Gabriel sewn upon his soul
This tempter, this traveler, this diplomat of night
Consumed by phantom flames and hideous to sight
Is ready, so he thinks, to seize his life again
And so, in slumber's shadow, he fills his life with sin

Inside the slums of the village where he hopes to go
Sits Emmelyne, the lady with a heart that none can know
With scarlet hair and pouting lips, with rivers in her eyes
Emmelyne, eternal, wraps the winter 'round her thighs
For, though she loves not snowy banks nor memories of cold
The empty air can fill the void of the life she sold
When cast upon the daggers of daylight's crawling climb
Her voice is like a violin, her laughter is like chimes
The peasants of the village all shower her with presents
As Emmelyne declines them, her face becomes unpleasant

Bertrand Baker, born to Quakers, burns with heavy guilt
He stitches all his life into shining patchwork quilt
With pastel dreams of purity, of glory, and of lace
Bertrand is consumed with visions of a woman's grace
He knows her face, her sultry voice, her smile and her tongue
But her name is lost to him, the note that is unsung
On wintery nights, he holds his palms near the open flame
Imagining that she is near, her touch and breath untamed
Yet winds of loss and tides of truth steal this quiet rite
And Bertrand Baker shuffles off into the winter night

Upon the hill are those who preach, the morose gang of monks
Proponents of great zealotry, opponents of the drunks
Among their rank emerges one, their leader, Father John
Who treats the peasants ruthlessly and sells them for a song
With harvest gone and monks withdrawn, he settles for some grain
And gorges on the gifts and tithes shuttled from the plain
Those who hunger, those who thirst, the helpless flock of lambs
Are sacrifices for the success of God's unyielding plans
To Father John and to the monks, the world is nearly cleansed
And the monks are unaware of all the Father's sins

With guarded hate and harried gait comes Gabriel's approach
As a donkey hauls his cart, he seems beyond reproach
For though his painted face reveals a sinister design
He shares his oils and elixirs for a meager fine
And Emmelyne, with her hopes slung across her shoulder
Buys a potion, takes a drink, becoming even colder
Kaleidoscopes of memory slither down her spine
As snakelike people take her blood and paint a silver sign
Bertrand, walking to the square where Gabriel now stood,
Sees his love, pale Emmelyne, on a bench of wood

Noting that her river eyes are swirling, swelling, swallowed
He takes the potion from her hand and sees her soul is hollow
Grabbing Gabriel with force and thrusting him aside
He searches for the antidote to save sweet Emmelyne
Quietly escaping from the ruckus of the square,
Gabriel repaints his face and dyes his silver hair
Father John and his monks arrive to place the blame
And put to death Bertrand Baker by unholy flame
And as sweet Emmelyne awakes from her drugged state
Gabriel, now far away, laughs at Bertrand's fate.