Paley Ontology

time clock silver stone
Photo by Pixabay on


Paley Ontology

William Paley,
(Still quoted daily)
Chanced upon a timepiece while out walking on the dale.
Pondering its presence,
Mulling on its essence,
He saw it was a Made Thing, and all that must entail:
Here there were no surplus parts, no way to make it less dense;
If this must have a Maker – why, then Man must likewise hail !

Grand Mr Paley,
Postulating gaily,
Never knew the fossils that were lurking in the shale.
So too have the watches
Seen their share of botches:
Dodgy trains and axles who have never found a sale.
Cruel is such selection as inflicts their cogs with notches,
And calling time on any found irregular or frail.

Poor Mr Paley,
Breaches in his bailey,
Holes in his hypothesis, all bigger than a whale.
Thermal compensation
And grand complication
Have grown in watches gradu’ly, and clearly leave their trail.
So tick evolves to tock with ev’ry not-quite-iteration,
In the coiling of the spring as in the spiral of the snail.



The Ballad of Miss Pickle



The Ballad of Miss Pickle

She skipped to the balls
In her crinoline gown,
With verdurous falls
In the drapes of her crown.
She rustled and twirled
As she danced with their gaze,
And pleatings unfurled
In a deep-lustred prase.
Hers was no ruby or aquamarine:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

All season she danced
In her favourite hue;
Her eyes were enhanced,
And her blossoming grew.
Her costume was styled
To flicker the room;
The beaux she beguiled,
Her shamrock in bloom.
Hers was no palette of altering scene:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

The following year
As the bucks met to fool,
They longed she’d appear:
Their taffeta jewel.
But salon and do
Were all lacking her shade;
They felt far too blue
And in want of her jade.
Hers was no presence, but absentee queen:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

Then shocking they heard
Of her sudden demise:
The poison transferred
From the arsenite dyes.
She wilted last winter,
She couldn’t have known
How deadly the tints were
In which she was sewn.
Hers was no longer, a tragic eighteen:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

A young woman dies
In much retching and bile
To set off her eyes
And to brighten her smile.
Her end was a blur
With her lights in distress,
But do not blame her
For the tinge of her dress.
Hers was no moral to vanity’s preen,
The glorious girl in the emerald green.

She skips to the balls
In her crinoline gown,
And her glowing enthrals
With a growing renown.
Remember her this way
From bodice to hem:
A verdant display
From a radiant gem.
A shimmer and sparkle, a ripening sheen:
The glorious girl in the emerald green.


More commonly referred to as Paris Green, but the rhythm of ’emerald’ suited me better.



Sorry, Elizabeth

queen elizabeth tower london
Photo by bruce mars on


Sorry, Elizabeth

“Big Ben is only the bell,”
You smugly tell,
But actu’lly, we already know.
Except you’re wrong:
It’s the bit that goes bong,
And ev’rything else, above and below.
Big Ben is the bell,
And the clock as well,
And even the whole bloody tower !
Ask any you meet
On Parli’ment Street
Whenever he’s chiming the hour.



Newton’s Cradle

Isaac Newton as a Child


Newton’s Cradle

A child is born in dead of winter,
Child to bring the summer in:
He teases rainbows from the sunshine,
Lets enlightenment begin.
He brings us universal laws:
For as above, then so below;
He shows the path that we must follow,
Teaches how the heavens go.

Brightly shines his star above
In both his eyepiece and his eyes;
His clockwork earth perturbs the sun,
His motion never dies.
He shows us how all things must love:
We all attract and all obey.
So promises the savant one
Who’s born on Christmas Day.

A child is born in dead of winter,
Child to set the world alight:
He mechanises all our fluids,
Magnifies the heavens bright.
He stands atop the giants’ shoulders,
Calculates the cosmic story –
From the leastest fractions upwards,
His the powers and the glory.

He wants to save the human genus
From the couterfeiter’s haul.
Apples are the fruit of learning:
Worlds shall rise to meet their fall.
He shows us how the warmth between us
Never really goes away;
Hark the one who keeps us burning,
Born on Christmas Day.



Little Drummer Boy

drummer boy
A Drummer Boy of the Royal Scots Dragoon by George Joy


Little Drummer Boy

Came the boy with the drum,
In red coat and drumsticks
’tween finger and thumb
In his breeches of blue,
With his skin taut and true,
With a rat-a-tat-tat,
And a roll and a thrum,
He silenced the scrum
With a snare tattoo –
He may have been dumb,
And his feet felt numb,
But he pounded his drum
In a one-one-two.

He played for the Lord,
And the right of the sword,
With his rat-a-tat-tat,
And the planes and the bombs,
On his tom-a-tom-toms,
With a splat-a-tat-splat.
And he drummed-in the troops
With his patterns and loops,
And he drilled the recruits
In their berets and boots,
And he stamped his feet
For these proud mothers’ sons,
In a perfect beat
To their crack-a-crack guns.

On the holiest night,
With a rat-a-tat-tat,
He led the Lord’s might
With a gat-a-gat-gat.
And guided by drones,
So he led the bombs home,
Then marched all the dead out to Kingdom Come.
With a rat-a-tat-tat,
And a mournful hum,
So the innocents died
To the beat of his drum.

Not Only Pascal’s Wager

white dices on checked wood
Photo by Pixabay on


Not Only Pascal’s Wager

If God is not, and I believe,
Then my mistake shall matter none to me;
And when I come this life to leave,
I matter none to void infinity.

If God there is, and I abstain,
Then my mistake shall matter great and well;
And when I quit this earthly plain,
I matter none to He who saves from Hell.

If God is not, or God there is,
Still our mistake, for taking up this bet;
So ere our lives are done, know this –
They matter much, they might be all we get.



Salient Thoughts



Salient Thoughts

Passing through Ypres,
We paused for a moment to take in the Cloth Hall.
By the cathedral we parked,
And we wandered the Grote Markt,
Charmed and yet chilled
By the way they had carefully rebuilt it all.

The shops were all shut –
(We’d come on a Sunday, just wanted a look)
English words blared from their posters and flyers
So locals or ex-pats ?  We didn’t enquire.
Their windows were filled
With helmets and biscuits and rifles and books.

Then down to the Menin Gate –
Far too triumphant and proud of its names:
Look at how many I bear !
They all did their duty and lie who-knows-where.
Just look at our killed !
And dare you resist us, and dare you lay blame ?

Rank upon rank of surnames,
With first-names reduced to only initials.
People I found myself wishing
Had told their nations to carry on fishing –
But instead, they had fought.
And here were their names, to make it official.

The flags barely moved,
And a few of us found ourselves holding our breath,
And it all seemed so lonely and still
And so thankfully long since the kill,
And yet still overwrought –
A faded and motionless orgy of death.

Ah, hindsight you rogue !
But let us not hate the hard lessons you tell.
So maybe it’s time to finally suture,
Time now for Ypres to find a new future.
And here’s a thought:
Maybe let’s spell it as Ieper from here on as well.