An Ashford Maid’s Lament by Linda Goulden

An Ashford Maid’s Lament

My mother caught my father’s eye.
My father wooed a wife.
My parents took a summer’s day
and sang it into life.

This little bird would not be caged
but roamed as soon as weaned,
to gather lily of the valley
and rosemary so green.

I never hooped my petticoats
nor gloved my busy hands
but stitched white roses onto cloth,
wove rush and withy bands.

I promised Jack, the blacksmith’s boy,
I’d never wear a scold.
He promised he would marry me
at twenty-one years old.

Love’s blushes never reddened me.
I never was a wife.
Before I made my wedding vows
the fever took my life.

My sisters three, who weep for me,
pray that the good Lord grants
the time to lose your maidenheads,
not win your virgin crants.


This is the writer’s response to seeing examples of the virgin crants tradition in Ashford-in-the Water in Derbyshire. For more information, if you wish: Maidens’ Garlands or Crantses in the Peak. 


Linda Goulden is a Scot settled in Derbyshire. Her poems won prizes from Nottingham Open Poetry and Poets and Players and have been published in Magma, in Poetry News and anthologies from Derbyshire County Council, Manchester Cathedral, Beautiful Dragons and the Emma Press.

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