6th August

A Lament for Janet Horne

Ah, Janet, did you not do those things? Look at the fire they are building, Janet. When you tripped on the words, when you said ‘wert’ instead of ‘art’, did you not think how that would sound to their hungry ears? Thy Father who wert in Heaven, Janet? Oh, they knew who you meant, they knew the one you worshipped.

And your daughter’s strange hands and strange feet, did you not think how these might one day appear to their eyes, and what stories they would make of them? And if she, too, should bear a child with those same deformities, did you believe that that would save you? That your neighbours would say, ‘Well, we were wrong after all, those were not the marks of the Devil on her’? Did you not hear them instead confirmed in their cruel faith? That the child bears the sin of the mother and of the mother’s mother, even unto death?

Did you not maim your own daughter, Janet, when you had your master shoe her like a pony? Did you not ride her to your sisters, to dance and froth in your hellish ecstasies? Come now, Janet, tell them what you did. This will not go away by their words, not now. Only you can bring it to an end.

Look at the fire they are building, Janet. A small fire it is. You will not feel it. They will choke you off before it touches you.

The great fire comes after, Janet. ‘God have mercy on you,’ they will say, ‘for we cannot. It is not in our gift to be merciful.’

Where will they take you, Janet? To the square in front of the old bishop’s palace? Or out of the town, to a place down by the dunes, where the stench of your burning will blow away to sea? They may watch the flames, Janet, but later they will not want you in their noses.

The flames of superstition are dying, Janet, but not soon enough for you. Your fate is to be the last of your kind, whatever your kind was.

God forbid that they should ever think you have come back again.

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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