The Ballad of Betsy Shaw

‘Tis in the dark November, of Seventeen forty four
A crime most foul and evil, passes into Windham lore.
With luck ones able children, can help you with your chores
But life is seldom perfect, and so with Betsy Shaw.
They call her slow and tease her, she cannot tie her shoes
The Shaws are much embarrassed, the work is never through.
Finally Father teaches her to work the barn, I guess,
As she grows into a figure that looks fetching in a dress.
Heaven knows, that’s how it goes.

Yes, Betsy’s simple-minded, she doesn’t have a clue
Why the village lads keep looking hot and hard at you.
The hayloft holds a secret, a meeting mean and wild
Betsy finds herself a simple teenager with child.
Not long after nine months at last has come and gone
A gruesome sad discov’ry in some nearby woods at dawn
“It cannot be determined”, the coroner has said
The tiny corpse a’lying there, was it born alive or dead?
Heaven knows, that’s how it goes.

Two men from the courthouse come calling dressed in blue
They question Betsy’s Papa, he’ll do as he should do
“It must be her”, says Papa, “alas, the Lord be praised”
His eyes are full of horror, but he cannot meet their gaze.
None of the onlookers, and there are quite a few
Can tell if Betsy knows where in hell she’s going to
The wagon ride is brief, boys, it goes to Gallows Hill
The end is quick and brutal. Some folks feel a thrill.
Heaven knows, that’s how it goes.

Betsy Shaw is hung, boys, hung upon a tree
Buried in a nameless grave for all eternity.
You’d think that Betsy’s spirit at last has been set free
I tell you, boys, it isn’t, peace is not to be.
They still see Betsy walking, in her dress of white
A waif along the roadside, on a cold November night,
Maybe she is looking for her long-lost child and grieving,
And maybe Betsy Shaw, boys, is looking to get even.

Heaven knows, that’s how it goes.
Heaven knows, that’s how it goes.


© George Jacobi 2013