Novotel Warrior

Gideon & His Three Hundred, artist unknown


Novotel Warrior

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…



The Gifts of the Magi

detail from The Adoration of the Magi tapestry by Edwin Burne-Jones, Wllliam Morris & John Dearle


The Gifts of the Magi

The Magi came to Bethlehem
As guided by a rising star,
And there a newborn greeted them
Beyond the busy brisk bazaar.
So three wise men each bore a gift –
The other nine just looked-on, miffed.

The first brought gold – a solid lump –
An ingot, so the paintings show.
That must have made young Mary jump
As Caspar flashed his gift aglow.
But prizes prising gasps aghast
Should surely be withheld till last.

Then Melchior with frankincense
To sweetly burn at times of prayer –
The sort of thing we all dispense,
To hosts and strangers ev’rywhere.
Safe and useful, just the thing
To give to clients, in-laws, kings.

And finally there came the myrrh –
Embalming oil for the dead.
A tactless gift to give, for sure,
That only brings a parent dread.
Poor Balthazar had left them cold –
And wished he’d also thought of gold !




The Annunciation to the Shepherds

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck


The Annunciation to the Shepherds

An angel found some shepherds
In the lambing pastures, not too far,
All keeping one eye out for wolves,
And one eye on that bright new star.

And the angel said:
“Behold !
I bring you tidings great with joy !
In David’s royal city, a saviour is born !
For swaddled and mangered, an innocent boy
Has taken his breath on this bright, still morn.”

Some shepherds found an angel
In the lambing pastures, glowing gold,
And after all its urgings,
They sat and thought on what it told.

And the shepherds said:
“That’s nice,
But we must watch our precious ewes.
For all your holy light,
We cannot leave and risk to lose
A single suckling sheep tonight.
So go tell folk in Bethlehem –
Those townies love to be beguiled…
But we must keep our trusting lambs
As safe as any child.”



The Charon Line

 Charon Carries Souls across the River Styx by Alexander Litovchenko


The Charon Line

We lined-up on the shore,
All so silently and patient,
As we waited for the ferryman to come.
The river was so calm,
And the air so deathly still,
And the souls were so sepulchral and so glum.

The sky above was black,
With no moon or stars upon it,
And yet light there was, from unseen candle wicks.
The ripples barely washed
On the river we all knew we knew:
Some say the Acheron, and some the Styx.

The sand beneath our sandals
Was a ghostly grey, and barren,
And was bunched up by the groynes that strutted out.
No birds were seen there wading,
And no crabs were on the scuttle,
And no barnacles or sedges, flies or trout.

Yet offering a focus
Was a short and ancient jetty –
Like a road to nowhere but the endless sea.
And here it was we waited,
With no sense of how long waiting,
For we hadn’t any other place to be.

Then through the unseen nothing
Came the faintest splash and motion,
As a distant dory drifted into view –
And standing at its stern
Was the sternest man left standing,
As he worked his ten-foot ore into the blue.

With a slow and practices action
Of his stroke, recover, stroke,
So his rust-red ferry glided to the shore
With not a punt too many,
He was docked upon the jetty,
As he paintered-up and shoulder-slung his oar.

Bearded and burly
With the bearing of a bull,
Looking old as both the river and the boat.
A loincloth and a cloak
Were his only grubby garments,
With his chest and thighs as hairy as a goat.

He stood upon the planks
And he held his other hand out,
Which we knew was for the taking of the fare.
We reached into our mouths,
And we felt beneath our tongues,
And withdrew the coin deposited in there.

Some could find no obol
And they feared they should be stranded,
And they clutched their worried forehead in dismay
But lo !, they found two pennies
Had been placed upon their eyelids
And they sighed with some relief that they could pay.

The boatman took the money
Which he dropped into a leather pouch –
He never looked, but fingers felt the coins –
He knew which ones weren’t obols,
And he tossed them in the river,
And their owners likewise shoved against the groynes.

Those who proffered pennies
Earned a scowl and muttered whinges
On tradition, change, and numpties who know best.
But rules are rules, and tolls are tolls –
He pocketed the coppers both,
Then waved them on his barge just like the rest.

He only took a dozen,
As we sat on barest boards,
While he stood upon the till and plumbed his oar.
And those who couldn’t pay
Were the stranded of the sands,
Who must wander through the wasteland evermore.

And what was waiting for us
On that other, distant bank ?
We never tell, and you shall never know –
At least, until the day you die
And make the trip yourself –
Unless, of course, you’ve somewhere else to go ?



Naming the Serpents

Lilith by John Collier


Naming the Serpents

Adam named the adder
And the grass snake and the asp,
The whip, the smooth and ladder,
And the rattle and the rasp.

He named them, ev’ry one entire,
That slinked across the land,
From the cobra in the briar,
To the boa in the sand.

But one had never caught his eyes:
The one within the apple tree –
The one that we immortalise
In canvas, glass and tapestry !

’Twas Eve who named the python
Once she’d tasted his delight,
She bet her very life on
How he’d hug but wouldn’t bite.



Virgin Birth

madonna & child
Beeata Maria by The Black Cat Masque


Virgin Birth

Mary, Mary,
Little fairy,
Like those Grecian girls of old:
The bull and swan have entered in,
The golden rain has soaked your skin,
So what’s inside,
Mary Bride,
And were you told ?
Like the girls and the Nephelim did when they kiss
In the book of the partheno-Genesis,
So a tale this big is too big to disbelieve,
And the giants in this world are conceived
By women who are bold.

Mary, Mary,
How does your foetus grow on its own ?
Maybe a haploid, unfertilised seed,
That’s only half a human, indeed !
So are you sure,
Mary Pure,
Just what you’ve grown ?
But it has been shown in the lizard and the aphid,
And a miracle Messiah has been prophesised since David,
In a tale so big it’s too big to be denied –
So the drag-king of the Jews must be supplied
Through your daughter – through your clone.



All The Best Tunes

The Devil’s Candy by Thomas Hodge


All The Best Tunes

Out of work and out of dole,
While high on blues and low on soul.
And all the songs we’d ever hear
Were old, and theirs, and insincere.
We hung around in aimless bands
To stop us feeling suicidal,
But the Devil makes work for idle hands –
And boy, were our hands idle !

So we are why the faithful flocks
Must mumble hymns while Satan rocks !
We’re drowning-out the choirs of Heaven
With three-chord worship at 11.
His music fills a hole in us,
It hugs our pockmarked skin –
If God gave rock & roll to us,
Then Satan plugged us in.