In the days of Oliver Cromwell, justice was swift and merciless. The poem, "Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight," concerns the adventures of a young follower of King Charles, who was captured, tried and sentenced to die "at the ringing of the curfew," the bell which announced that the day was over. The young man had a sweetheart, Bessie, who failing to win over his stern judges, finally appealed to the village sexton, urging him not to ring the curfew, hoping that thereby the execution would not take place. The aged sexton loved her as though she had been his own child, but refused to shirk his duty, although he knew it meant her lover's death. At the last moment inspiration came to the girl. She ran into the church, and by a ladder "none had trod in hundreds of years," reached the belfry. To silence the bell she seized the iron clapper, and desperately clung to it while it swung her far out into space. Plans for execution were all made, but the bell did not ring. The puzzled officers ...
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