Monday, October 25, 2010

The Broomstick Brigade: WitchWeek Day One


I saw three witches

That bowed down like barley,

And took to their brooms 'neath a louring sky,

And, mounting a storm cloud,

Aloft on its margin,

Stood black in the silver as up they did fly.

I saw three witches

That mocked the poor sparrows

They carried in cages of wicker along,

Till a hawk from his eyrie

Swooped down like an arrow,

And smote on the cages, and ended their song.

I saw three witches

That sailed in a shallop,

All turning their heads with a truculent smile,

Till a bank of green osiers

Concealed their grim faces,

Though I heard them lamenting for many a mile.

I saw three witches

Asleep in a valley,

Their heads in a row, like stones in a flood,

Till the moon, creeping upward,

Looked white through the valley,

And turned them to bushes in bright scarlet bud.

--from Songs of Childhood, by Walter de la Mare.

"So they put the broom lengthwise down the counter...John held one end and Rosemary held the other, and from the other side of the counter Mrs. Cantrip laid her gnarled hand on the middle. As she stroked the wooden handle the children felt the broom quiver in response.

" 'Ah, my beauty!' the old woman said, so softly that Rosemary was startled. 'We had some fine times together, you and me! Do you remember swooping over the North Pole with the northern lights flickering through your tail? And beating back home against a northeast gale with the clouds scudding over the moon so thick and dark that many a broom would have lost its way? But not you, my beauty! Ah, you were as fine a besom as ever took to the sky--but now you are old, and so am I, and the glory is gone from us.' She stroked the broom and crooned to it like a woman with a sick child."

--from Carbonel, The King Of The Cats, by Barbara Sleigh.


When the midnight strikes in the belfrey dark

And the white goose quakes to the fox's bark,

We saddle the horse that is hayless, oatless,

Hoofless and pranceless, kickless and coatless,

We canter off for a midnight prowl--

Whoo-hoo-hoo, says the hook-eared owl.

--from The Midnight Folk, by John Masefield.

"Besides, watching [Miss Price learn to fly her broomstick] had been his secret, his nightly joy. His bed was beside the window, and when the moon was full, it shone on his pillow and wakened him. It had been exciting to lie there, with his eyes fixed on the pale sky beyond the ragged blackness of the cedar boughs. Some nights he did not wake up. Other nights he woke up and she did not come. But he saw her often enough, and each time he saw her, she had learned to fly a little better. At first she had wobbled so, balanced sideways on the stick, that he wondered that she did not ride astride. She would grip the broomstick with one hand and try to hold her hat on with the other, and her feet, in their long shoes, looked so odd against the moonlit sky. Once she fell--and the broomstick came down quite slowly, like an umbrella blown inside out, with Miss Price clinging to the handle. Paul had watched her anxiously until she reached the ground. That time she landed safely.

"Partly, he did not tell because he wanted to be proud of Miss Price. He did not want the other to see her until she was really good at it--until, perhaps, she could do tricks on a broomstick, and look confident instead of scared. Once when she had lifted both hands in the air at the same time, Paul nearly clapped. He knew that was hard to do even on a bicycle."

--from Bed-Knob and Broomstick, by Mary Norton.

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