ballad, Downside, Hereford, Lazarus, leper, pilgrimage, Prime, Santo Severo church, Swansea Castle, Terce, Thomas Cantelope, Trahaern ap Hwyel, twice-hanged man, veneration, Wassail Gate, William Cragh
(tomb of Thomas Cantelope in Hereford
William Cragh was a warrior bold;
rebelled against the king.
Thirteen men were slain by him
and so he had to swing.
Outside Swansea Castle stood
the gibbet where he’d die.
Trahaern ap Hywel broke the beam
(they’d swung him up so high.)
Both were hanged again, it’s said,
from Terce until Prime.
Lady Mary* claimed his corpse
for burial in due time.
William’s eyes were bulging out;
his face was black as coal.
They wheeled him to Tom Mathew’s house,
while she prayed for his soul:
Bishop Thomas Cantelope,
hear me when I pray.
Restore to life this rebel here
and wash his sins away.
Her ladies took a silken thread,
to span the dead man’s length.
A candle of such size I’ll make,
as measure of faith’s strength.
The dead man’s feet began to twitch;
a fortnight later stood
and walked right through the Wassail Gate,
among the great and good.
The executioner and priest;
a thirteen year old youth;
Lady Mary’s son to boot
witnessed to the truth.
In English, Latin, French and Welsh
all doubts were then erased.
For each confirmed they felt the same:
William had been raised!
Will left his effigy in wax
and placed it on the grave
of Cantelope, in Hereford
and, steadily a wave
of veneration then arose;
priests were soon advised
of miracles and so they pressed
to have him canonised.
Will lived a further eighteen years,
till, Lazarus-like, he died,
but the tongue that swelled to choke him once,
on pilgrimage testified
that some recovered speech and sight
and lepers had been healed,
yet he alone was a twice-hanged man,
whose death had been repealed.
In Santo Severo church, the flesh
of Cantelope rests still;
his bones in Hereford reside –
in Downside lies his skull.