Our next example of gallows literature was originally printed as a broadside and is from the hanging of a child molester in Massachusetts that took place during the Revolutionary War.
The Dying Criminal
POEM, by ROBERT YOUNG, on his own Execution, which is to be on this Day, November 11th, 1779, for RAPE committed on the Body of Jane Green, a Child, eleven years of age, at Brookfield, in the Country of Worcester, on the Third Day of September last. Corrected from his own Manuscript.
Attend, ye youth! if ye would fain be old,
Take solemn warning when my tale is told;
In blooming life my soul I must resign,
In my full strength, just aged twenty-nine.
But a short time ago I little thought
That to this shameful end I should be brought;
But the foul fiend, excepting God controuls,
Dresses sin lovely when he baits for souls.
Could you the Monster in the true colours see,
His subjects nor his servant would you be;
His gilded baits would ne’er allure your minds,
For he who serves him bitter anguish finds.
Had I as oft unto my Bible went,
As on vain pleasures I was eager bent,
These lines had never been compos’d by me,
Nor my vile body hung upon the tree.
Those guilty pleasures which I did pursue,
No more delight – they’re painful to my view;
That monster, Sin, that dwells within my breast,
Tortures my soul, and robs me of my rest.
The fatal time I very well remember,
For it was on th’ third day of September,
I went to Western, thoughtless of my God,
Though worlds do tremble at his awful nod.
With pot companions did I pass the day,
And afterwards to Brookfield bent my way,
The grand deceiver thought it was his time,
And lead me to commit a horrid crime.
Just after dark I met the little fair,
(O Heav’n forgive, and hear my humble pray’r)
And thou, dear Jane, wilt though forgive me too,
For I most cruelly have treated you.
I seiz’d th’ advantage of the dark’ning hour.
(And savage brutes by night their prey devour)
This little child, eleven years of age,
Then fell victim to my brutal rage.
Nor could the groans of innocence prevail,
O pity, reader, though I tell the tale;
Drunk withy my lust [on] cursed purpose [bent]
Severely us’d th’ unhappy innocent.
Her sister dear was to have been my wife,
But I’ve abus’d her and must lose my life;
Was I but innocent, my heart would bleed
To hear a wretch, like me, had done the deed.
Reader, whoe’er thou art, a warning take,
Be good and just, and all your sins forsake;
May the almighty God direct your way
To the bright regions of eternal day.
A dying man to you makes this request,
For sure he wishes that you may be blest,
And shortly, reader, thou must follow me,
And drop into a vast eternity!
The paths of lewdness, and the base profane,
Produce keen anguish, sorrow fear and shame;
Forsake them then, I’ve trod the dreary road
My crimes are great, I groan beneath the load.
For a long time on sin should you be bent,
You’ll find it hard, like me, [for to] repent;
The more a dangerous wound doth mortify,
The more the surgeon his best skill must try.
These lines I write within a gloomy cell,
I soon shall leave them with a long farewell;
Again I caution all who read the same,
[And] beg they would their wicked lives reclaim.
[Last verse illegible]
Stephens, John Richard. “Weird Literature.” Weird History 101: Tales of Intrigue, Mayhem, and Outrageous Behavior. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006. 198-99. Print.