If you’ve seen the movie Dead Poets Society, you remember that the movie quotes a bunch of poems throughout its running time. It quotes few in their entirety, and most are either quoted for dramatic effect or to basically provide poetic slogans for Mr. Keating’s agenda of raising young freethinkers or whatever. (I’m not a fan of the movie, to be honest.)
Of the poems quoted for dramatic effect, one always stuck with me because it contrasts wildly with most of the film’s remaining poetry. It’s about a man who hates his wife, and in the stanza read aloud by one of the characters, the final rhyme is “He cut her bloody throat.”
Well, I got to curious about that, so I did a little Googling, and I found it: a ballad called “The Ballad of William Bloat”, and it’s a pretty grim little ditty, as you’ll find out below. It also features an odd bit of Irish patriotism, which is strange in a poem that’s essentially a bit of light verse about domestic violence….
“The Ballad of William Bloat”, by Raymond Calvert.
In a mean abode on the Shankill Road
Lived a man named William Bloat;
He had a wife, the curse of his life,
Who continually got on his goat.
So one day at dawn, with her nightdress on
He cut her bloody throat.
With a razor gash he settled her hash
Oh never was crime so quick
But the drip drip drip on the pillowslip
Of her lifeblood made him sick.
And the pool of gore on the bedroom floor
Grew clotted and cold and thick.
And yet he was glad he had done what he had
When she lay there stiff and still
But a sudden awe of the angry law
Struck his heart with an icy chill.
So to finish the fun so well begun
He resolved himself to kill.
He took the sheet from the wife’s coul’ feet
And twisted it into a rope
And he hanged himself from the pantry shelf,
‘Twas an easy end, let’s hope.
In the face of death with his latest breath
He solemnly cursed the Pope.
But the strangest turn to the whole concern
Is only just beginning.
He went to Hell but his wife got well
And is still alive and sinning.
For the razor blade was German made
But the sheet was Belfast linen.
So the German knife was up to the task of slicing her throat open, but the Belfast linen? Why, that stuff is strong enough to…well. You know.