POETRY: The Witches’ Brew | Poetry

Northern Life Poetry

by Dennis Hartley, Nelson

‘Why do we eat fish on Friday?’
A young lad said to me.
‘It is a strange and wonderful tale’
I replied with a hint of glee.

It all started with the witches of Pendle
And the male population around here,
When after a Friday night at the tavern
And a longing for broth after beer

Now the witches were not very alluring,
So to get a man they had to have wiles.
Which led to them concocting a comely brew
With an aroma that wafted for miles.

This brew was so potent and powerful
That it left strong men weak at the knees.
And the witches would wait near the tavern
With the broth and a pan of black peas.

The broth, with its mixture of herbs,
Collected from on Pendle Hill.
Outshines your oysters and rhino horn
Like no other aphrodisiac will.

The beer and the broth with the herbs in
Made the witches look good in the moonlight;
And the men paired off with these ‘beauties’,
Who then took them home for the night.

Now the local women were not very happy
When they heard of such goings-on.
So together they formed up a posse
With the Vicar who responded by beating a drum.

They chased away the witches
And emptied the cauldrons they found
Into rivers and streams and lakes,
And any other water around.

The result was that fish developed
A palate for this tasty stock.
With a thrashing of fins and tails
They readily wolfed down the lot.

The effect on the fish population
After this aphrodisiacal feast,
Was to triple in size overnight
And triple twice again in a week.

Fish became the staple diet
Of every home in every nearby town.
Perch, roach, chub and trout
Were eagerly cooked and swallowed down.

People from afar descended on Pendle
To take advantage of this rich fish crop.
From far flung places like Skipton,
Blackburn, Rawtenstall and Bacup.

But all good things come to an end.
For chanting incantations and casting magic spells,
The witches of Pendle were arrested
And cast deep into the cells.

There was no more broth to throw away
And the fish became tired and bereft.
The stocks that had once been so healthy
Slowly declined until little was left.

Townsfolk argued and fought
For what few fish remained.
It even took its toll on the Vicar
Whose face looked pallid and drained.

So the Vicar summoned up his flock
By beating on his drum
And said ‘We’ll have an end to this’.
Which rather suited some.

‘From this day on’, the Vicar said, ‘it will be a sin
To partake of fish in any way’.
Then seeing the looks in his parishioners’ eyes
Quickly added ‘With the exception of Friday.’

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