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Susanna Cox, ballads, copy book, murder trial, handwriting, moral lesson
In this student copybook dating from circa 1862, the writer transcribes the ballad of Susanna Cox in both German and English. It recounts the trial and execution of a woman named Susanna Cox who killed her child, conceived out of wed-lock. The work copied in the book appears to be based on the Louis Storck translation of the ballad by Johann Philip Gombert.
A New dirge, Containing The History Of Susanna Cox, Who was executed at Reading for the murder of her own child.
“The story I’m going to tell you.
Forever will be new.
And who but once doth hear it,
Twill break his heart in two.
All ye who feel for others’ woes,
With harts [hearts] compassionate,
Oh!! Listen to the woeful tale,
Of a poor damsel’s fate!
Susanna Cox, a country maid,
young, and of beauty rare,
In Oley as a servant had
Long lived with Jacob Gehr
Ne’er had she been instructed in
The course of human law,
Nor did she know God’s Holy Word,
Which strikes the world with awe.
For ev’ry one must be aware
Of what he daily sees,
That whom the scriptures don’t restrain,
They’ll do just what they please.
Her neighbor, will remember we –
Merz was his second name –
He recklessly led her astray
By lust’s unhallowed flame.
An instance which, from Adam’s time,
The race of man defiled,
When Satan, in a serpent’s garb,
His help mate eve beguiled.
Death followed in seduction’s train,
When first the world began –
This happened to Susanna Cox
Through that unworthy man.
What in his seventh commandment God,
What sacred laws forbid,
He wantonly trod under foot
And laughed, and scoffed at it.
Though married, to seduce this girl
He did not hesitate –
He’ll rue it when he’s dead and gone,
But then ‘twill be too late!
Fear of disgrace prevented her
From making known her state,
Which she by ev’ry means concealed
Despair did indicate.
The eighteen hundred and ninth year,
At half past four at morn,
The fourteenth day of February,
The unhappy child was born.
So far misled this sinner was
So much bewildered she,
That she her helpless infant’s soul
Sent to eternity,
As soon as rumor did at her
Point as a murderess,
Off was she hurried to the Jail,
The foul deed to confess
A Jury then empannelled was
To investigate her case,
And to decide accordingly
What sentence should take place.
Although she supplicated hard
To pardon her great sin,
Of murder in the first degree
They, guilty, brought her in.
Ere long she in the courthouse was
Arraigned before Judge Spayd,
Where, shedding many scorching tears,
She learned her awful fate.
Each one may easily conceive
What her own feelings were
To think, Oh lamentable case!
What end awaited her.
Then to the Governor was sent,
Who lived in Lancaster,
The warrant which contained her doom,
For his own signature.
A gentleman who pitied her,
Had by herself been sent
To supplicate the executive
Laws’ rigor to suspend.
But she no pardon could obtain,
For she was to be hung,
As early as the tenth of June
To warn both old and young.
The warrant was returned, and read
In her dark prison-cell,
When fervently she prayed to God
To save her soul from hell.
The clergy oft did visit her
In her repentant state,
For earnestly she penance did,
Preparing for her fate.
Just as the clock did strike eleven,
She straightways from the Jail
Was led to where the gallows stood,
Oh lamentable tale!
She faithfully admonished all,
Young folks, especially,
“Oh let,” said [she], “my dreadful fate
To you a warning be.”
She humbly knelt upon the ground,
And called in her distress
Upon the Lord to pardon all
Her sins and wickedness.
So piteous her crying was,
Her anguish and her fears so great
That ev’ry heart was moved,
And ev’ry eye shed tears.
She said: “I in an instant shall
Go to eternity;
Oh God! For my redeemer’s sake,
Turn not thy face from me!”
She then was made to undergo
The punishment of death;
Scarce sev'nteen minutes had expired
When she resigned her breath.
Although without the least delay
Their skill the doctors tried,
To bring her back to life again
Was to their art denied.
He that composed this little song,
In mem’ry of the event,
Was present at the closing scene,
And did the trial attend.
Let all who live upon this earth,
By her example see,
What dire disgrace may those befall
Who’re raised illiterately.
Short was, and sad, her pilgrimage,
Her youth mere drudgery,
Her age but twenty years and four,
Her exit – infamy.
German and English
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Author, Unknown, "Copy Book Transcription of The Ballad of Susanna Cox, 1862" (1862). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 170.
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