Otherwise Titled: The Judgement of Stephen
(with apologies to Wilfred Owen)
There came two women that were harlots to stand before the king,
And looked upon his majesty all trembling and filled with dread,
And one of them cried out: This woman smothered her child in bed,
After passing out from opium which she had been smoking.
Rising in the dead of night, she then took my child suckling,
And at my bosom, while I slept, placed hers at my side instead.
The other woman answered: ‘Tis not so, but thy child is dead.
To this the first answered on the contrary: Thou art lying!
In this manner they strove before the king, each with equal claim.
Then said the king: Bring me a forceps and scalpel and bone-saw,
And when they had brought these things, divide, said he, the living child
By its joints, and between yourselves share of its mortal remains.
Like its mother, t’would be a burthen to our realm and our law–
Neither of ye shall have this bastard son, from your womb defiled.
At this, the woman whose child was alive wept and implored:
My lord, do not kill him! Let him be brought up by another.
To save his life at all cost is the duty of a mother.
(For her heart was torn by her little infant which she adored)
The other woman saw this but by her sorrow was unmoved.
She knelt down before the king and said: Pray, do not believe her.
Would his life be worth living if the harm of it were greater?
To wish this fate proves hers is the guilt. She cannot be trusted.
But the king calmly slew the babe and spoke without emotion:
Which is the mother matters not. The sentence is delivered.
All Sodom heard the judgment and reveled in its cruelty.
The alchemist took the entrails to mix into his potions.
For black magic and sorcery the poor wretch was thus disposed,
And the pagans vainly slaughtered one third of their progeny.