The Witches of Berwick
King James fetched home his Danish bride
but foul winds beat them back,
so the wise King sought out the cause
that drove his fleet to wrack.
Now Geillis Duncan was a maid
and healer of some fame;
her master Seaton of Tranent
asked her whence her gift came.
He asked her most genteelly
and noted down her moans,
he asked her with the pilliwinks
that crushed her finger bones.
She told the Berwick coven’s names
who threatened the King’s life,
who danced upon the Auld Kirk Green
and sailed in a sieve.
Old Agnes Sampson was the first,
called the Wise Wife of Keith,
brought to the King at Holyrood
to be put to the proof.
They bridled her most sturdily
with spikes in cheeks and tongue,
they cropped her head and wrote down all
she blurted while she hung.
Then John Fian of Prestonpans
whose guilt was not in doubt
for he confessed all, once he had
his fingernails torn out.
They burned them all on Castlehill,
bright as a burning tree;
thus James, Defender of the Faith,
was saved from sorcery.