More Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey


 

THE NIGHT-WASHERS


 

WHE-OOH, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!
We are the brothers of ghouls, and who
In the name of the Crooked Saints are you?

We are the washers of shrouds wherein
The lovers of beauty who sainted sin

5
Sleep till the Judgment Day begin.

When the moon is drifting overhead,
We wash the linen of the dead,
Stained with yellow and stiff with red.

Whe-ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!

10
We are the foul night-washers, and who
By the Seven Lovely sins are you?

Here we sit by the river reeds,
Rinsing the linen that reeks and bleeds,
And craving the help our labor needs.

15

Come, Sir Fop, fall to, fall to!
Show us for once what you can do!
One day there’ll be washing enough for you.

Wade in, wade in, where the river runs
Clear in the moonlight over the stones!

20
It’ll wash the ache from your scrofulous bones.

Whe-ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!
We are the gossips of fame, and who
By the Sinners’ Litany are you?

Wade in, wade in! The water is cold,

25
The stains are deep, and the linen is old;
But surely the sons of the town are bold!

Work for us here till the break of day
At washing the stains of the dead away,
And you shall be merry, come what may!

30

From now till your ninetieth year begins,
You shall sin the Seven Lovely sins,
While wearing the virtue a cardinal wins.

Refuse, and your arms shall be broken and wried,
To dangle like fenders over the side

35
Of an empty ship on the harbor tide!

They shall gather a waist in their grip no more,
As you wander the wide world over and o’er,
With the curs at your heels from door to door.

With only a stranger to cover your face,

40
You shall die in the streets of an outcast race,
And your linen be washed in the market-place!

Whe-ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!
We are the Scavenger Saints, but who
In the name of the Shadowy Kin are you?

45