The Witch-Finder General


  There was once a man,

  Matthew Hopkins by name,

  who turned his back on the law,


  to make more money

  (20 shillings a town)


  hunting witches.





King James had decreed

that all witches must die.

Ol' Matthew was rarin’ to go.


He’d already found in his

own home town


twenty-four witches.



He claimed Parliament’s blessing

and traveled the land

with is band of “lady prickers.”


The “Witch-Finder General,”

he made a career


finding witches.



His “prickers” were handy

when innocence claimed,

cutting the frightened lasses.


If they bled, fare well, be on their way.

If not, then they


were witches.



Now, since Mr. Hawkins

was raking it in

his couldn’t have blood flow


Blunted needles and blades

showed these women to all


be witches.



When tied to a chair

and thrown in the pond

only the innocent drowned.


Alas, those poor woman

in chairs that would float, pulled out and tried


as witches.



Sleep deprivation is still used today

for confessions

that aren’t always true


Mr. Hawkins would follow

King James’ own book to always


identify witches



Such a popular service

sometimes taxes were charged

to bring the Witch-Finder to town.


Within the short span of four long gruesome years

300 women were killed


as witches.



The high price of “knowing”

just who was a witch,

legend says cost Matthew his life.


“He’s in league with the devil!”

“How else could he know?”  He’s


a witch!

©2020 Lisa Smith Nelson. All Rights Reserved

Legend tells that Matthew Hopkins died by drowning after being accused of witchcraft, for how else was he able to identify so many witches with such accuracy?  As he is buried in a church graveyard, and his name is in the parish burial registry, it seems to be just that, a legend.  It would have been an ironic payment for the 300 odd deaths he and his “prickers” were responsible for, if he too had been accused of witchcraft and paid the ultimate price, his own life.

What's the Price? - Weekly Scribblings #41



  1. Sorry to hear it's just a legend – it would have been such nice poetic justice. Thank you for telling this story of an evil man. I suspect that few of the persecuted were actually witches. Nevertheless, prejudice against us continues in some circles. In some countries in the world, that still includes torture and murder; in others it has meant losing one's job, or access to one's children....

    1. Wouldn't that have been perfect, if he'd been tried himself? I know next to nothing about witchcraft, just happened across Matthew Hopkins' account as I was writing the poem, originally with a pied piper. Same sort of thing, a traveling exterminator, I thought. I went with the lesser known figure. I'm sorry you have to contend with ignorant and prejudiced people.

  2. Lisa, i appreciate the tremendous effort you've put into the writing of this tale. An epic?
    It turned out to be a nice story easy to read and keeping your reader's interest.
    I sort of felt sorry for Mr. Hopkins. Poor deluded fellow

    1. Oh, I'm not so sure he was deluded! He as a struggling lawyer until he began his witch-hunting "career," when he raked in the money.

  3. A great tale this is, even if it's not quite true.

  4. A woman living on her own with a cat was considered to be a witch in those terrible times. Misogyny has always been a part of human culture. It still exists
    today in certain places where women are stoned to death for adultery or thrown alive on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands. Very good poem.

    1. Just terrible it still exists. I read accounts online and it's hard to imagine in these days such backwards ways are still seen as normal.

  5. I guess it is unlikely the legend is fact, but that doesn't stop me from liking it anyway. I also prefer the version where he wasn't so much a "true believer" but merely a con man looking to make a buck off of the fears of those who were, and then got a most richly deserved end.

    1. He did die the year he "retired," so he didn't get to enjoy is ill-earned riches! He may not have even been the lawyer he presented himself to be.

  6. Fascinating on SO many levels!! Cheers.


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