Downs go up and downs go down,
As wave on wave of frozen ocean
Built each ridge and vale and crown
With ev’ry ancient tide in motion.
Tiny creatures swarmed the sea
And dropped their tiny plates all over,
From Stonehenge to Normandy
As deeply as the Cliffs of Dover.
Singular alga sounds all wrong, as if the term has become strictly a mass noun.
Don’t ask me her birth name,
For I never heard it
Till many years later – too late to take root.
No, she was called Clover:
So terribly English,
So strangely old-fashioned, and strangely un-cute.
And pure Anglo-Saxon – her name, but not her –
No, she was as Chinese as any I’ve met,
With excellent English and excellent manners,
Yet bearing the name that was all Somerset.
And as for her birth name,
I knew that she had one,
But she never told me, and I never asked.
And had I been told it,
I’d only be baffled
By which was her first name, and which was her last.
So she plucked a new one, did Clover, a new name –
I don’t know why this name, but this name is she.
She chose it at high school, I gather – they all did,
Her classmates and Clover, they chose who to be.
She still has her birth name,
She hasn’t erased it,
She still has her birth name for using back home –
But here she is Clover
For living in London,
(Though maybe she’s Clio when living in Rome).
We in the West are too jealous of birth names,
We get what we get, and we lump what we got,
Then sneer at the actors and writers for daring –
But Clover is Clover because…well, why not ?
Sing it if you want to,
Cos I cannot stop you.
Pay me my royalties,
Do with it as you please.
For once a song is out there,
Then it’s out there for ev’ryone –
It’s out there for evermore,
They’re all out there together.
Until I’m dead for three score ten
And then it’s all for free forever.
But until that day,
If the author gets their pay,
Then the artist gets to sing away.
Permission isn’t theirs to grant,
And nobody tells anyone they can’t.
If I were to say today If I was,
Would I generate a buzz
At my un-subjunctive ?
I doubt it.
Not to be presumptive,
But the world can live without it.
The less-pedantic folk
Have been dropping weres for years –
Not to provoke,
But only, it appears,
That they never learned a diff’rent way.
And who’s to say that what they say is wrong ?
Their meaning is as clear
To an ever over-fussy ear,
And all thanks to context –
That complex glue that helps us get along.
To make a counter-factual phrase,
They have no need for prissy rules
That sound like strays from olden days –
They do it fine with simple tools,
Without the fuss,
Without the spleen,
And ev’ry single one of us knows wholly they mean.
Don’t weep for changes in our speech –
It changed for you,
In all those words they wouldn’t teach
That once were dangerous and new.
They horrified your grandpapa, of course –
They made him jar, they made him hoarse.
But you knew better than your betters –
Broke the fetters on the Non-U,
Took these immigrants upon you,
Gave them voice and gave them force,
You let them all rejoice
And hoped they stung –
Rolling their illicit letters
Round and round your tongue.
So if I was to use the was
Is it because I like the buzz ?
But then again, perhaps
It’s more an unintended lapse,
And not a careless slur.
Or maybe I prefer
The ever-simple sound of was –
I like the way she does,
So let her purr.
If that be all it is,
Or if that is all it be,
Let’s let the was be fancy-free –
As it were.
The first to life in the late of Winter,
The first to bloom in the newborn Spring –
While all the seeds are stilly sleeping,
Through the soil is something creeping.
Beneath the frost in the frigid hinter,
The bullets sprout as the robins sing –
From snowdrop first to tulip last,
By foxglove-time their time has passed.
But don’t bring bulbs indoors for Winter,
Don’t make the life for them too soft –
Or soon their show will disenchant,
With the leggy leaves of a spider-plant.
Don’t force a bulb to be a sprinter,
Rushing blooms to get aloft –
They shoot too soon, they shoot too bright,
Their heads too big, their stalks too slight.
The first to life in the late of Winter,
The first to wilt in the newborn Spring –
While those outside are stilly sleeping,
From the pots comes something leaping.
Far from frost in the humid hinter,
The sissies sprout as the carols sing –
From one-week first to next-week last,
By snowdrop-time their time has passed.
Gideon, Gideon, scourge of the Midian,
Judge of Manasseh and tough as obsidian.
Beating the wheat, he’s a young man of might,
So Yahweh descended with orders to fight:
To turn back the raidings of Midianite,
And break down the altar of Baal.
The idol he smashed, but to Yahweh a snarl –
“Prove you are greater than this god of Gog –
Keep the fleece dry when the dew tries to sog.”
Almighty proven, the lad must take charge
He raised up an army, but thought it too large,
And kept only soldiers who drank like a dog.
Now here’s an adventure to savour !,
To pass a long and lonely night
Within a small, strange room –
Never mind about the Saviour,
Read about the epic fight
As Gideon brings Midian to doom !
Gideon, Gideon, hiding his light in a jar,
Outnumbered by far,
But winning the night with trumpets and pluck
If only, if only the tale were all told,
Of the faithful and bold,
Of defending their homeland with Yahweh and luck.
But next came the slaughter, as wholesale as usual,
All egged on by Yahweh at mercy’s refusal –
When allies were wetbacks, he butchered the sods.
Then forty years later, his reign was still feted –
He died in contentment, unpunished and sated
As he took many wives and he praised many gods.
Now here’s a tale of confusion…
To pass a cold and friendless night
Within a sad, sparse room –
What moral should be our conclusion ?
The lonely will not find much light
To lead them out of an early tomb.
I’m not sure which Syllable to stress in ‘Manasseh’, being one of those words I’ve seen written but never heard spoken, but my subconscious wants it to be the second one, perhaps influenced by ‘molasses’. If it turns out to be the first then the second line won’t scan very well, so I guess will need to be changed to ‘Manasseh judge’. Ah, the vagueries of English…