Weekly Muse

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The Independent Culture
If St Swithin's Day be wet

The rabbit gets a bit upset,

But if it doesn't come to much

He may just venture from his hutch.

Your Hengist and your Horsa,

Your Angles, Saxons, Jutes,

Your Ethelred and Hilda,

Your Alfreds and Canutes

Expunged from education,

Not sexy any more,

As market-led exam boards

Desert the Saxon shore.

My teacher, Mrs Wigmore,

From long decades ago

Would rattle in her coffin

To learn that this is so.

The Saxons and their kinsmen,

She drummed into our heads,

Had given us our place names,

The "tuns", the "hams", the "steads".

Her picture of that period

In moot and fyrd and fold

Lit up the dusty classroom

When I was 12 years old.

And if we let the system

Steal centuries off the shelves,

We don't just edit history,

We're editing ourselves.

We're Philistines, we British,

And everybody knows it.

We opt for entertainment,

Our choice of viewing shows it.

But give a bit of money

And space to an Italian,

And how will he reward us?

A stuffed suspended stallion.

A dead horse on the ceiling -

It's hanging in the Tate.

A sea of culture calls you -

Come in, the water's great!

This priceless piece of sculpture

Will serve to teach our young

That only Art can show us

How horses should be hung.

They've put a poet on a train,

His name is Ian Macmillan.

They asked him if he'd do it,

He said that he was willin'.

A residency on the rails?

Good luck sir, from us all.

Now here's a brief commercial

(I hope Great Western call):

Hi. This is is your railway poem

For customers to Cardiff.

I'm sorry that it cannot rhyme

Until we get to Swansea.

Those who wish to hear a switch

Of metre before Newport

Should change at Bristol Parkway

Where an iambus is waiting.

This is due to shortages

Of syllables in Swindon.

This poem is running approximately

Three feet short. I do not yet know

Why it has stopped.

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