Poetic Licence: Counting Sheep

Culture Secretary Chris Smith has waded in on the side of One Man And His Dog fans. The row over the BBC's decision to axe the programme after 23 years looks set to escalate this week, after Mr Smith spoke out in support of the programme on Radio Four's Any Questions.

Among those rain-green purple hills

Beneath that tableau of the clouds

The ruthless choreography

And dressage of the collie "creep"

The smartest dogs to walk the earth

Will wheel and weave - even in dreams

While city workers fall asleep

Yan, tyan, tethera - counting sheep

For here is man but here's his dog

A fur-machine with dustbin breath

As border-collie owners know

They have this look, the collie eye

Reserved for nervous visitors

The children, cats or anything

The creature may identify

As necessary to bring "by"

To see the collies working though,

A symphony in monochrome

From occiput to tip of tail

Along a valley hell-for-leather

Narrow hips and galleon chests

A canny canine SAS

In marinade of Cumbrian weather

Another matter altogether

Yan, tyan, tethera, methera, pimp

The farmers now go down the ramp

And head towards the shedding-ring

As rural England goes for broke

And governed by remote control

Becomes a film-set, set-aside

A tale of complex country folk

Being treated as sort of joke

Lethera, hovera, dovra, dick

The collies bring the last ewes in

And semi-telepathically

Will drive them in a pincer sweep

The smartest dogs to walk the earth

Can wheel and weave, even in dreams

While city workers fall asleep

Yan, tyan, tethera, counting sheep

Yan, tyan, tethera, methera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovra, dick - one to 10 in old Cumbrian dialect used for counting sheep

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