No drowsy dusk, no scent of elderflower
Or honeysuckle, dog-rose, eglantine
And all the garlands of Titania’s bower
As we poor, foolish mortals now incline
Our closest to the sun. Come solstice night,
I should walk, knee-deep, on the feathered edge
Of moth-soft fields suffused in amber light
While Oberon, enthroned beneath the hedge,
Holds court and toasts the world in golden ale.
Instead, I shiver in the house as rain
Smacks on the glass like grape-shot, and a gale
Roars in from the Atlantic once again.
The weathermen despair: all hope depends
On honest Puck, who shall restore amends.
In Wellingtons and waterproofs he stands,
A lonely lighthouse in a sea of grass,
To call the cows in: whistles, claps his hands,
Cries ‘Hup’ and ‘Go on then, girls’ as they pass:
Unhurried, rope-veined udders swinging, large
With milk, the smells of warm crushed turf and dung
Surrounding them in their slow-motion charge
Towards the gate. Their names are on his tongue
And they obey his summons. What do I
Bring in from my own forays in the field?
No milk or meat, no crop to justify
My time; and yet my labours have their yield:
When nothing’s left of this land, man or herd,
Their memory will live. You have my word.
This is a moment I could steal:
The task that’s kept me caged in here
Complete; the next not yet begun.
The rain is gone; a pale sun
Returns, the blue-washed sky gleams clear
And branches wave in mute appeal.
No contract to compel me, no
Cruel clock to punch, no overseer
Or deadline to detain me. Still
I hesitate; the guilty thrill
Of truancy upon me – fear
Without foundation. I can go
And damn the consequences: I
Am no man’s man, at large, unbound.
This unwatched hour is mine to take:
My criminal impulses wake
And furtively, without a sound,
I’ll snatch this jewelled time, and fly.
Well, sky, explain how we’ve offended you
This time – why do you glower grimly down
Upon us, dark and threatening? Wish I knew
What malefaction set that furrowed frown
Across the firmament. And you, south wind –
What’s your complaint; why do you rage and roar
Against us? List the ways that we have sinned,
The wickedness we’re now atoning for.
The rain retreats for weeks, and then returns
In storm and sudden flood: the faithless sun
Leaves us in shivering grey before it burns
Our crops and gardens. What is it we’ve done?
The weather is repaying us, it seems,
For our excesses with its own extremes.
Oh, Will. We’ve found it. After all these years,
We’ve dug it up at last – your wooden O,
That in your day resounded to the cheers
Of lords and groundlings. How were they to know
Their Sunday entertainment would endure
Long after every trace of seats and stage
Had vanished – or that you, a poor, obscure
Hired player, would cast their world, define their age?
Perhaps now we can finally close the door
On those misguided souls who still debate
Who wrote your work – because, they claim, it’s more
Than one low lad from Stratford could create.
It’s not just mud and scattered stones we’ve found
In Shoreditch. It’s our roots. And sacred ground.
This made my day. N.
These fields are not mine. I shall never own
A square inch of this land: I cannot claim
A single blade of grass, the smallest stone;
I’ve no leaf, branch or flower to my name.
I have no influence, no right to choose
Its destiny. It’s not for me to say
What happens here: the great and good will use
It as they please. It’s theirs to take away.
But when it goes – and go it will – a part
Of me will vanish too. I will not die
Yet I shall live a little less; my heart
Squeezed like a fist, my days one long goodbye.
No violence involved, no gun or knife.
But in their robbery, they’ll take a life.
The district council has presented plans for 1,000 (yes, that’s one-and-three-zeroes) new houses, plus factory units and a school, on greenfield land surrounding our ancient woodlands. It will increase the town’s population by 20%, bring our already struggling infrastructure to a standstill, and completely fill in the long view to the South Downs we presently enjoy from the playing fields. We’ve made vigorous representations, of course, but all the signs are that THEY – who, needless to say, don’t live, walk their dogs or raise their children here – will have their way. What can you do? N.
A day replete with pomp and circumstance
And I am out here, sitting on a stile
To watch the silage-makers grab their chance
To beat the rain and take this cut dry. While
The gilded ones glide down the Thames, this crew
Are flat out: that big harvester can fill
The trailers so fast, it’s all they can do
To keep ‘em coming; in their speed and skill
They almost match the martins, skimming low
Across the windrows. This, then, is my land
Of hope and glory: in that regal show
I see no sight, nor hear no sound so grand.
When passing pride and pageantry are gone,
The seasons’ timeless work will still go on.
Think I may have just blown my chance of being made Poet Laureate…N.