Women: Can’t live with ‘em…

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I came across this poem in an anthology that I have – I keep it in the bathroom so I can flip through it at random when I have a quiet moment (although I am often distracted by the swish of Red’s ginger tail – waiting on a pull).

The book was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law (a couple of years ago) and at first glance I took it to be one of these dime-a-dozen floral-covered collections that are podged together and sold as the perfect gift for anyone who “likes poems”. I was inclined to tuck it away on the shelf and not even open it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was tidying up said shelf and as it is narrow and tall, I found myself at the end of my work with a few books that didn’t fit. I often cull my collections of cds, books and other things and so a couple of the books went into the bag bound for the local Goodwill store. The little hard-cover anthology, however, I decided to keep and stick in the loo along with the Geist and Dwell magazines, The Pears Ultimate Quiz Companion and Kevin’s Italian Football history book, Calcio.

So, it happened that I picked up the little poetry book the other morning and flicked the gilt-edged pages (always a tactic to lure unsuspecting buyers, in my opinion) and stumbled upon the following startling piece. As I read it, I could not but wonder if Johnny Cash was familiar with this when he wrote the song, Delia’s Gone.

Then, doing a bit of research on this new-to-me poem, I discovered it was turned into a well-known song. Tommy Makem has sung it for years, apparently. The poem is obviously a thinly-veiled political vehicle and really, what isn’t when it comes to the Irish? Interestingly, the last line appears to change from time to time, depending on the performer. In my book it was “Dublin-made razor” the version below is “German” and Makem’s performance uses the somewhat innocuous (well, relative to Ireland anyway) “Japanese”. So, it seems that originally the poem took a strong religious/political stance, but nowadays we don’t want to offend anyone so the Irish sides are left out of it.

The Cash song depicts an outright nasty despatch of a woman by a wicked man, but I still think Cash could have had Bloat in mind. What say you?

William Bloat

(Raymond Calvert)

In a mean abode on the Shankill Road
Lived a man named William Bloat
And he had a wife, the bane of his life
Who always got his goat
And one day at dawn, with her nightdress on
He slit her bloody throat

Now, he was glad he had done what he had
As she lay there stiff and still
‘Til suddenly awe of the angry law
Filled his soul with an awful chill
And to finish the fun so well begun
He decided himself to kill

Then he took the sheet from his wife’s cold feet
And he twisted it into a rope
And he hanged himself from the pantry shelf
‘Twas an easy end, let’s hope
With his dying breath and he facing death
He solemnly cursed the Pope

But the strangest turn of the whole concern
Is only just beginnin
He went to hell, but his wife got well
And she’s still alive and sinnin
For the razor blade was German-made
But the rope was Belfast linen

Delia’s Gone

Delia, oh, Delia, Delia all my life
If I hadn’t have shot poor Delia, I’d have had her for my wife
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

I went up to Memphis and I met Delia there
Found her in her parlor and I tied to her chair
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

She was low down and trifling and she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to grab my sub machine
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

First time I shot her I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer, but with the second shot she died
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

But jailer, oh, jailer , jailer,I can’t sleep
‘Cause all around my bedside I hear the patter of Delia’s feet
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

So if your woman’s devilish you can let her run
Or you can bring her down and do her like Delia got done
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone


24 thoughts on “Women: Can’t live with ‘em…

  1. Jeepers Creepers,What is it with these misogynists?We've got these two plusJimi Hendrix/Deep Purple ie. “Hey Joe, where're you going with the gun in your hand? Going down to shoot my old lady – caught her messing 'round with another man.”And seemingly gentle Neil Young “Down by the River, I shot my baby.” Could “Delia's Gone” get airplay today? “Kind of evil make me want to Grab my sub machine” For Heaven's Sake.


  2. What I found very odd was Tommy Makem's mischievous grin as he sang about William Bloat slitting his wife's throat. Mind you, I wasn't allowed to watch The Three Stooges when I was growing up, so my sense of humour isn't fully developed.


  3. Most songs, espeacially the older county songs are folktale ballads set to music. Tom Dooley, Big John,Miller's Cave, Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town and Billy Joe McAllister Jumped Off The Tallahatie Bridge are some examples of truth being set first to poetry, then to song. Songs of wanton women being murdered is common in old folk songs but you rarely hear songs of cheating men being cut down.??? Wonder why? Carol


  4. Hi Kat,Thanks for putting my mind at rest that you are not the first psychic blogger I have come across! I did not rememebr mentioning it-Newcastle always seem to be on the telly!I enjoyed reading your post today-most interesting. I had never heard that JC song-it isn't one of his best! I liked watching the rendition of the grim poem though-he does it so cheerfully. What I liked most though was the fact that that poem was in a book with such a twee cover! Who'd a thunk it?! THe toilet is definitely the best place to read!


  5. Those are both harsh songs, for sure, & I agree with the folks who've pointed out that it seems really strange to include in a gilt-paged poetry anthology.As much as I love old country/blues/folk (& Johnny Cash) I won't sing songs like “Delia's Gone.”


  6. With Tommy singing, it does seem like a political metaphor..yet always the awful image of doing a woman in, to her bloody end. And Johnny easily taking the path of violence to women, a nasty dream of domination, never ending…yes, let's set it to music and tap our feet, makes it sort of fun!


  7. I love this kind of sleuthed-out trivia – well done!! And it goes to prove, the “good old days” were just a blood-thirsty in their day as any contemporary crime or slasher movie!


  8. Very disturbing poems/songs. I'd forgotten about nasty old Mr Bloat. Did one influence the other? Possibly, but it's a kind of architypal theme.I was reminded of Oscar Wilde's equally-disturbing Ballad of Reading Gaol:He did not wear his scarlet coat, For blood and wine are red,And blood and wine were on his hands When they found him with the dead,The poor dead woman whom he loved, And murdered in her bed………Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard,Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word,The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!Some kill their love when they are young, And some when they are old;Some strangle with the hands of Lust, Some with the hands of Gold:The kindest use a knife, because The dead so soon grow cold.etc etc


  9. It's very spooky and somehow befitting Tim Burton's Jack the Ripper. Johnny Cash's song is very much his style but it's bizzare to find William Bloat in such light poetry book. Thanks, that was very interesting. a


  10. Oh. That is evil. It does seem odd that it's in such a pretty book. The research you did on it is very interesting. Thanks for including that. TheWritersPorch has a great comment about folk songs. I have to add that the voice of the poem or song isn't necessarily the poet or singer. The “chilling” presentation is sometimes used to make a point we all agree with. I don't think I could do it, though. It's hard to get inside the mind of sheer evil. Thanks for all this food for thought, Kat. Very interesting topic!


  11. This is such a smart post. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the discovery with you. I stopped by this morning and read this, but for some reason, blogger was acting up and I couldn't leave a comment. Anyway, what I've been thinking about for awhile now is how important it is to remain open to possibilities – to stay in that teachable, humble posture. I have, at times, been tempted to discount not only books like the one your MIL gave you, but (of all things) people. This happens occasionally with blogging. But, I've found when I hang in there and wait for a connection to develop over time or to spend time reading someone on a regular basis – I often have big takeaways. I learn so much, and it always makes me wonder about who I haven't discovered yet and what I could be learning. Oh, for more time!Great post, Kat. I think the Chieftains do William Bloat. I seem to recall several versions of the song on Playlist.com when I was doing the St. P Day music. I have to say – watching Cash was very hard. I couldn't get through the whole video b/c it made sad thinking about my dad. And, oh, I hate to be sad. But, Delia is similar, isn't it? Reminds me of what Willa Cather said – there are only 2 or 3 human stories and they go on repeating themselves.


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