Deep in the dark, deep in the dark,
Cast-by machines lie interred,
Forsaken, alone and silent,
But once a year they are stirred.
The Shadowmancer works by night
With shadow staff who have been
Forming portals that let him move
Shadow to shadow unseen.
Machines are sleeping underground,
Up above machines are still,
Primed for mechanical motion
Come The Shadowmancer’s will.
Then the Halloween moon wakes them,
They start up heavy and slow,
Lumbering on to the surface
From the labyrinth below.
The mining museum’s closed
And the visitors gone home,
It’s when the curators leave that
The machines begin to roam.
Flames flare up in the Davy lamps
And by their flickering light
There are shadows of the machines
Moving around the site.
The Shadowmancer summons them
As they come to life again,
At Caphouse and at Hope pits they
Gather together, and then…
Having risen out from the earth,
Their decaying bodies stark,
They haunt all those of the living
Who left them down in the dark.
They’re famished and they’re thirsty
They’re choked with coal dust and soil,
They’re seeking to gorge themselves on
Electricity and oil.
The Shadowmancer has freed them
To go where their shadows lead,
To move around the human world
They fed, so they can now feed.
And woe betide anyone who
Might try and stand in their way,
While the machines cut all they can
By the dawn of All Souls’ Day,
When they must journey together
Back down deep, deep underground,
‘Til then, they rejoice at midnight
And nobody hears a sound.
The Shadowmancer quietly
Slips away while the night’s clear,
None will know he was ever there,
Or if he’ll return next year.
This ballad for Hallowe’en has been made from ideas and words supplied by the following: Daniel Orme
Many thanks to all of you. While the number of contributions varies from month to month, the quality does not. The invention and imagination in the responses to the themes is always gratifying, and October is no exception. I wish I could have used all the wonderful images and phrases you sent, but that would have been a very long poem.
Writer in Residence
National Coal Mining Museum
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