45. The Ballad of William Bloat: Raymond Calvert

I remember reading this poem in “Norton’s Anthology of English Literature”. I think. I heard it in “Dead Poets Society”, passed it off, and then (I think) read it when I was trying to get into graduate school for English Literature (I graduated, SUNY Cortland!). At that point I was skipping around, and I came across this (I think).

It is a good read alound. So, read it aloud.

That said, the issues are priceless. Sexism? The greatness of British goods? Violence? You could link it to Dickens, if you wished. Also, is it art? An old refrain, I know, but it is a good discussion to have. Fun, but is it art?

The Ballad of William Bloat
Raymond Calvert

In a mean abode on the Skankill Road
Lived a man named William Bloat;
He had a wife, the curse of his life,
Who continually got his goat.
So one day at dawn, with her nightdress on
He cut her bloody throat.

With a razor gash he settled her hash
Oh never was crime so quick
But the drip drip drip on the pillowslip ‘
Of her lifeblood made him sick.
And the pool of gore on the bedroom floor
Grew clotted and cold and thick.

And yet he was glad he had done what he had
When she lay there stiff and still
But a sudden awe of the angry law
Struck his heart with an icy chill.
So to finish the fun so well begun
He resolved himself to kill.

He took the sheet from the wife’s coul’ feet
And twisted it into a rope
And he hanged himself from the pantry shelf,
‘Twas an easy end, let’s hope.
In the face of death with his latest breath
He solemnly cursed the Pope.

But the strangest turn to the whole concern
Is only just beginning.
He went to Hell but his wife got well
And she’s still alive and sinning.
For the razor blade was German made
But the sheet was Belfast linen.


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