A REFUGE FOR POETS WHO WRITE IN THE LYRIC TRADITION,
WITH RHYME AND METER, WITH OR WITHOUT MUSIC
BALLAD OF DAVID HAMBLETON
One day in late September David Hambleton was slain
On the river that they called Newichawannock,
That forms the western border of the present State of Maine,
By Algonquins who would hunt and fish upon it.
He was born in Westburn, Lanarkshire, upon the River Clyde,
A bit southeast of Glasgow in the lawland countryside.
His father was an old man but he knew, before he died,
To instill his little Davie with a sense of Scottish pride.
He was kin to Scottish royalty, to all the Stewart kings,
Dating back to Bruce the Liberator.
When Cromwell seized the Parliament, and overthrew the king,
The Hambletons viewed Cromwell as a traitor.
David was a young man at the onset of the war.
He had to fight, he saw his duty clearly.
He bade farewell to Annah Jaxson, the little girl next door,
Who was far too young to wed, but loved him dearly.
At Worcester he was taken as a prisoner of war,
And shipped to North America in chains,
And sold for thirty pounds to be a slave forever more
At a sawmill on the rocky coast of Maine.
But when the mill went bankrupt all the prisoners were freed,
And David built a house with his own hands,
And after years of struggle he at last obtained a deed,
And became the legal owner of the land.
He sent for Annah Jaxson for to sail across the foam,
To marry him and cherish him forever.
Eight young sons she bore him in their little wooden home
On the banks of the Newichawannock River.
But the both of them were killed, and they died without a will,
And the orphans’ house and land were handed over
Not for public use, but to a private speculator
By officials of the nearby Town of Dover.
The youngest boy was James, and they shipped him off in chains,
A specimen of value, strong and braw.
They sent him to Virginia from the rocky coast of Maine,
And made him "serve according to the law."
He sometimes came to court and demanded to be freed,
But his master and the judge were unrepentant.
They stripped him and they whipped him for the words he dared to speak,
And added extra years onto his sentence.
Fourteen years he labored in the hot Virginia sun,
Pulling stumps and harvesting tobacco,
Until at last they freed him at the age of thirty-one,
As under English common law they had to.
In twelve more years he had enough tobacco for to buy
A hundred acre homestead of his own.
Both James and Grace, his wife, were in their forties when they died,
And they never saw their children fully grown.
Three hundred years have come and gone; no remnants have survived,
No traces of this family can be found,
But a monument to David high above the riverside,
And his stone foundation deep beneath the ground.
Antlers, Oklahoma, 2006