I saw a raven at a crossroads, perched
Atop a rustic fingerpost.
Now there, I thought, as she crowed and lurched,
Is a raven being raven-most.
With pretty hamlets beneath her claws
And shepherd’s skies behind her jet,
She guarded the lanes with portent caws
Where the paths of chance and folklore met.
Hey, have you heard the news ?
It turns out ev’ry single bird,
From ducks to crows to cockatoos,
Is really just a dinosaur !
I bet you never knew before !
Oh, I guess you’ve heard…
Well, of course you have, I guess…
We all have – hey, we ain’t naive.
Some facts, it seems, we all possess,
They’re quotes that ev’rybody knows –
Apparently, it’s one of those,
Like, ‘sharks must swim to breathe’.
Like how Brazil and Timbuktoo
Have split apart and drifted.
The jigsaw that’s too-good for true,
Is really true ! And the world is round,
In space our screams won’t make a sound,
And the stars have slowly shifted.
Or how without a pinch of salt,
We’d all be quickly dead.
But sodium and chlorine halt
Our welfare quicker, if we dined
On each alone – but when combined,
We’re kept alive instead.
We know all this, we’ve known for years –
It’s just some stuff we know.
It’s been so long between our ears,
We’ve let it grow mundane –
If we forgot and learned again,
Our minds would surely blow.
But hey, not ev’rybody knows,
We all had to be told.
So someone had to first disclose
That farting fungus rises bread,
Or knocking protons out of lead
Will turn it into gold.
So someone has to spread the word,
And we could be the ones !
For someone, somewhere hasn’t heard,
And we could get to cast the spell,
And see their wonder as we tell
Of how we’re made from suns !
Once a time, horses were ev’rywhere: Carrying knights on their scoutings and charges,
Galloping messengers, lancers in battle,
Winding our winches and towing our barges,
Trekking our caravans, herding our cattle,
Ploughing our fields and pulling our drays,
Hauling our minecarts, waggons and hearses,
The Hansom and omnibus, stagecoach and chaise
Were drawn with a mixture of carrots and curses. Chestnuts and roans and brindles and bays,
Black beauties, piebalds and fleabitten greys.
Rocking our children and hobbying fairs,
Stuffing our cushions and gluing our chairs.
So where are they now ? They all got replaced by machines in the end,
That can do their jobs better and do their jobs faster –
They’re cheaper to build and are quicker to mend,
And don’t need reminding just who is their master.
The horses can only be worked to the bone,
They try hard, but haven’t the means.
They’ve all been replaced, through no fault of their own –
For who can compete with machines ? In hindsight, of course, it is always the case:
When a horse must compete with the new iron horse,
Then it’s always a one-horse race.
These day, humans are ev’rywhere – Building our furniture, stitching our clothes,
Driving our buses and stacking our shelves.
Doing the jobs the majority loathes,
For who else could do it for us but ourselves ?
Builders and farmers and doctors and tutors –
Of course they need humans ! Whyever d’you ask ?
You can’t leave the it down to machines and computers –
It’s not like there’s robots for every task. We’ll be here for donkey’s years, my dears,
Despite such market forces –
So close up the stable door once more,
We’re all safe as horses !
The sparrows are in short supply these days
In even smaller market-towns –
The pigeons drove them all away,
As greys replaced the ancient browns.
They came in from the crags and cliffs,
And in they came to stay –
Now how long till the tits and swifts
Are sent the way of thrush and jay
Across the woods and downs ?
But pigeons should not easy rest,
For they were merely pioneers
Who now must share their new-found nest
With seagulls, it appears.
This rogue with white and silver chest
Has left his tip to make the trip to town,
And there he finds at his command
A richer life so far inland –
Thus pigeons find their numbers pressed
As white shoos grey, as grey shooed brown.
And likewise, newly on the scene,
The parrots bring a flash of green,
And Canuck geese are all a-quack
With probing necks of white and black.
So pigeons must defend their branch
To claim their urban feathered-bed –
As hovering about the ranch
With always sharp and hungry eyes,
Here come the kites, the latest guys,
To turn this plague of grey to red.
Six limbs ? Not an impossibility,
But why grow the lower four quite so stout ?
In flight, they’re only dead weight of little good utility,
And back on land, they’re never used for galloping about.
For all the traveller’s tales told,
It’s physics leaves the dragon cold.
It is a shame, but that is that –
Don’t curse the laws that bring us light.
There’s swarms of creatures to adore
Far more than sphinx or manticore.
The greatest wonder of the bat
Is how they find their way at night.
Don’t hope for dragons, save your wish
To glimpse upon a dragonfish.
Six tons ? Not as heavy as some aircraft,
But far too heavy without massive thrust –
Birds can only fly because they’re lighter than the updraft,
And when they’re not (like ostriches) they’re left down in the dust.
For all the picture books we read,
It’s physics kills the dragon dead.
It is a shame, but so it goes –
Don’t wish for trolls or unicorns.
There’s hordes of creatures just as nice
As any roc or cockatrice.
The greatest beauty of the rose
Is knowing why it grows its thorns.
Don’t weep for dragons, they’re just lies –
Instead, let’s sing of dragonflies.
Thank you, sir, thank you sir, thank you a thousandfold !
How we were plagued upon, how we were festered !
Rodentine pestilence, vicious and far-too-bold,
Raided, invaded – our stores all sequestered.
For we had already lost every vat we had,
Every scrap we had, every foison.
And we had already tried every cat we had,
Every trap we had, every poison.
Not just the teeth or the claws was our worrying,
Not just the tapeworms or ticks from the ditches –
No, not just the nibbling and soiling and scurrying –
But oh !, it’s the fleas ! It’s the fleas and the itches !
Nobody worked, and nobody traded,
The strongest ones fled, and illness cascaded.
We would have offered you anything, made you the Pope !
Ev’ryone feared at the spectre amongst us,
And ev’ryone feared for the health of the youngsters;
Look to our children – their future became our last hope.
Thank you, sir, thank you sir, you have deliverèd !
Thank you for ridding our cellars of nestings !
Leading your river of rats to the riverbed,
Besting the beasties of pantry molestings.
Now is our artisans’ industry recommensed,
Thanks to the man in the bright-coloured suiting.
Talent like you displayed must be well-recompensed,
Must be rewarded to honour your fluting.
How much I wish we could honour our promises,
Honour the price we agreed in our anguish –
But all of our shelves are so empty and ominous,
All of our prospects still fester and languish.
Nobody’s rich, and ev’ryone’s starving –
So let us rebuild, before you come carving
Your portions of nothing to meet your retainer agreed.
Give us some time, for trade to be mettled;
Pray, give us some time, and all will be settled.
Look to our children, and teach them to follow your lead.