Poems 25

Young Handel-Bar       (with apologies to Sir Walter Scott)

O Young Handel-Bar is come out of the West,

In all the wide borders his tandem is best

Save adjustable spanner, his weapons had none –

He rode without kit, except a half comb

So faithful to touring, so fast and so far

There never was a cyclist like Young Handel-Bar

 

He stayed not to brake, he stopped not for stone

He bumped and he bounced, for surface was none;

But ‘ere he alighted at the Youth Hostel gate

The bride had consented, the gallant came late:

For a laggard at travel, who never rode far

Was to wed Freewheel Fannie from Bold Handel-Bar

 

So bravely he entered the common-room hall

Among the brides clubmates and family and all

The spoke Fannie’s father, a hand on a spanner

(While the poor craven bridegroom betrayed timid manner)

“Oh come ye by cycle, or come ye by car

“Twill cost you a shilling, my bold Handel-Bar!”

 

“I long rode with your daughter”, young Handel-Bar cried

From Lands End to Groat’s house, my tandem astride

And a shilling, my warden, I never did pay

When a sixpence sufficed my lodging to stay

There are maidens in Britain more lovely by far

And sixpenny hostels for Young Handel-Bar!

 

“For the sake of old times, before I depart

“A health and a dance I crave, then I will start”

The father demurred and his wife disagreed

And the groom sulked dissent like the wormy bread

But the company present approval did dare

And that was enough for young Handel-Bar.

 

The bride brought the teapot, our brave brought the cup

And quaffed in one gulp the whole of it up –

Although tea was rationed, and sugar as well,

Our hero had scorched through dale and o’er fell

Then he took her soft hand ere her parent could bar –

“Now, can you pedal?” whispered young Handel-Bar

 

So stately his form, so lovely her face

There never was hostel such couple did grace

While mother did fret, and father raised Cain

And the weather outside ‘gan pouring with rain

They were off on the tandem, by bush, bank, and scar

“They’ll follow on singles, quoth bold Handel-Bar.

 

There was mounting ‘mong Wheelers and Clarion too

While father and mother tailed after the crew;

There was racing and chasing o’er moor and o’er lea

But Freewheel Fannie ne’er again did they see

With his half comb as trousseau she travelled so far

And her guardian companion was Young Handel-Bar                  January 1941 

 

 

The Islands of the Blest

 

There’s a path beneath the Bens

          Leading on towards the west

O’er the muir and through the glens

          To the Islands ot the Blest!

 

By Arkaig and Dessary

          Plodding on with scarce a rest

Mountain pass and inland sea

          To the Islands of the Blest!

 

Now, what memories awake!

          Limping down to Inverie

Upon the boat with creamy wake

          And the Islands of the Sea.

 

Towering heights above the Kyle

          Cloudlets floating on their crest

Restless sea, and rock-bound isle –

          Hail! The Islands of the Blest                         December 1945

 

 

Poems 24

                              Annalong   (What’s in a name)

 

I travelled down from Belfast Town

          By sea-fringed I ran along

Where mountain slopes come sweeping down

          To meet the waves at Annalong

         

 To Annalong I ran along

            The lilting name of Annalong

I sang to every man along

               The swinging road to Annalong!

 

There is no fame of ancient name,

          No promenade to scan along;

And no one wished, whoever came

          To linger long in Annalong.

 

To Annalong I ran along –

           The striding road to Annalong

Fly along, fan along

                Hie along to Annalong!

 

The big ships ride on Belfast tide

           They count the world their span along,

While hugging close the harbour side

          The little ships of Annalong.

 

To Annalong I ran along –

            Sing a song of Annalong!

Play along; plan along

               Plod along to Annalong!

 

Now I proclaim, what’s in a name

               That sends me fast as can along!

It could not ever be the same

                  When once I’d looked on Annalong.

 

To Annalong, I ran along –

            The lovely name of Annalong!

Lin-along, Lan-along

                 Love-along to Annalong!                     Feb 19, 1937

For those of a curious nature, Annalong is on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland close to the Mourne Mountains, slightly north of Kilkeel.

 

 

                              The Mess of Pottage

 

I’m just mutton dressed as lamb,

That’s the kind of man I am

Apeing youth, but ageing fast

A regular icon-o-clast!

 

I’ve frolicked in my early spring

And taken flight on fancy’s wing

I’ve ridden down the miles all day

With on my lips a roundelay

 

The singular joys of riding hard

To distant shires – no distance barred

And constant, changeful scenes to see

I thought myself an entity

 

Then when my early summer came

Pursuit of camping was my aim –

To kick my heels on rubber bed

While framing wisdoms in my head.

 

The sun was bright, the world still young

The mind was active, strong the lung

A pot of gold was mine to see

And satisfied security.

 

I’d known the gold on moor and fell

When Autumn spread his lavish spell

Now Autumn holds his hand for me –

A single pot of gold I see!

 

Not what I’ll do is now my theme

But what I did the constant theme

When in my pensive chair I brood –

How often pensive is my mood!

 

I’m just mutton dressed as lamb

That’s the kind of man I am

Apeing youth but ageing fast

A regular iconoclast.                  26 Dec 1938

Written beside Bassenthwaite for an old chum.

Poems 23

                              Lines under Duress       On a broiling Day

 

When from a week of heated strife –

The desperate round of daily life

We turn to seek relief and ease

Where sights and scents of Nature please

Brief hours of rest and peace to feel –

The balm industry’s scars to heal

We greet the waking summer sun

And stir, lest precious minutes run.

 

But the joys of the sun are haply these:-

The midges nip on tender knees;

Vagrant wasps on the wandering wing

In search of unclothed arms to sting;

The bee in quest of honey sweet

Just flecks the neck with puncture neat

The tiny things that crawl and creep

On human skin make lighter leap:

And myriad life in earth and air

Make summer more than one can bear.

 

The lightsome play of solar rays

On skin yet white from sunless days

May from refreshing caress turn

Into a fire of torturing burn

The winding lane one follows far

Are steeped in dust by every car.

Illusion is a mental sense

Banished by experience;

And summer joys seen from afar

Are thus seen where they cannot mar

‘Tis good to dream of ‘Flaming June’

And hold the dream at Winter’s noon

E’en while I sit to make my song

I fear I dare not sit for long

With mustering force the pesterous clan

Precipitate the Flight of Man.                  Hoghton Bottoms, June 1934

 

 

Eastertide

 

When Easter comes the highway hums

(Like it always hums when Easter comes)

The whole long day with a rare array

Of miscellaneous roadsters gay

          All of them off on holiday!

 

Brief liberty – a world set free –

A moving scene of pageantry

The land is gay in spring array

From town and city, bent on play

          The world is making holiday!

 

There’s a tandem old with its riders bold

(What tales that tandem could unfold)

And the riders gray, whose youthful day

Is like their tandem’s, year’s away,

          Both of them off on a holiday!

 

And the youngster green – perhaps over keen

Each of them perched on an aged machine

As forth they sway in a wayward way

From peep o’dawn till the end of day

          All of them off on a holiday!

 

Oh, what delight from morn till night

Be Easter dull or be it bright

And what care they for another day –

Today will soon be yesterday –

          Today they are all on holiday!                  Easter 1934

 

 

Poems 22

On hearing of Tom’s Seccession

 

Sometimes as I wander, the lone road before me-

          The highway, the byway, the green lanes of yore

How often a feeling of longing comes o’er me

          For days that are gone, and companions no more

Six years together – in time but a minute

Yet what would I give to keep all that was in it!

 

Vibrant my memory, rings yet the laughter

          Of many a jest that we passed by the way.

It’s value was light until in the day’s after

          Now what would I yield for just one fleeting day!

Six years together – in time but a minute

Now what would I lose to gain all that was in it!

 

And oft when I’m roaming, the lone road before me,

Old scenes do I see, as in days of yore

And there is a feeling of sadness comes o’er me –

I long for my comrade – my comrade no more

Six years together, in time but a minute

Yet what would I give to have all that was in it!

 

Old chum just a line, it’s my mode of expression

          Excuse it – you know what I mean it to be

Time that has gone has left such an impression

          That this is a duty demanded of me.

Six years together – old chum we went through it

But six years – six years – glad again would I do it!              July 1929

 

People who Wouldn’t be Missed          (With due respect to W S Gilbert)

 

As it seems to me desirous that a clearance must be made

          I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list

Of certain individuals who, if they should get mislaid,      

          I’m sure would not be missed, they never would be missed

First the motor-cycle speed fiend, when we get him it is clear

          (With a slight amount of pressure) would consent to disappear

And the Emigration League should support me to a man,

          For notice the consistency and beauty of the plan –

Though I’ve picked enough to please a rabid emigrationist

They’d none of ’em be missed, they’d none of ‘em be missed.

 

Chorus:  We’ll put ‘em on the list though it’s likely they’ll resist

               For they’’ none of ‘em bbe missed, they’ll none of ‘em be missed.

When the hogging owner driver of the type that ‘let’s it rip’

           With his curious mental twist, I’ve got him on the list

And the anti-cyclist policeman who has Britain in his grip

          He never would be missed, oh no, he’d not be missed:

The juggling journalistic chaps who are strangers to the truth

And gull the public constantly about our ill-spent youth;

The dear old dames who bawl about the ‘dangers of the road’

I know a desert island where I’d like to see them stowed

The fanatical coroner and the hooting motorist

They never would be missed, the never would be missed. 

 

Chorus:  We’ll put ‘em on the list etc

 

The dismal sympathiser whom I owe a strong desire

To pommel with my fist, I’ve got him on the list

The profitter whose wiles we don’t admire

He never would be missed, he never would be missed:

The sleek contented caterer, and eke the garage man

Who, when he gets us helpless, he will rob us all he can

The parrot-crying rear lightest, the dazzle fiend as well

The lumbering lorry driver who would send us all to hell

Yet he graciously consents to allow us to exist –

He never will be missed, I’m sure he’ll not be missed.

 

          Chorus: We’ll put ‘em on the list etc                                 July 1926

 

Poems 21

Before the We.R.7 Fell

 

Of We.R.7 I’m the bard

Who sings their songs and tells their tales

The deeds they did, the things they dared –

The perilous course they set their sails

There are the themes my muses tell

Before the “We Are Seven” fell.

 

I’d sing of a fight before a gale

Of winter’s worst and summer’s heat

Round big events I’d weave my tale

And leave their memory to the rest:

Of things we dreamed and did I’d tell

Before the “We Are Seven” fell.

These are the days beyond recall

But  who’d recall them if they could?

They have not passed beyond the Wall

Until they’ve left their mark for good

The good that’s done no-one could tell

Until the “We Are Seven” fell.

 

When out of touch with pleasant things

And out of mood with human kind

Maybe to scan this book that sings

Of days that they have left behind

Will take them back, as by a spell

For what they did, to what befell

Before the “We Are Seven” fell.                     August 1930

 

 

They Never, Never, Swear

 

Oh, ‘We are Seven’, one and all

List to the warbling virginal

And heed ye all the holy call

          To mass, or else to prayer:

I can vouch that this is true –

I’ve just heard someone speak of you

Who says you’re good, and pious too,

          And never never swear!

 

Ye gods! The noted ‘Seven are We’

A sainted heavenly company!

It’s never before occurred to me –

          (And often I’ve been there)

To think a ‘We.R.Seven’ chap

Could meet with any big mishap

Or a tumble into irate trap

          And never never swear!

 

Just think of Joe and Wally Kay –

A couple who will have their say

If trouble meets them by the way

          A most abandoned pair!

Imagine Joe in robes of white

Round Wally’s head a haloed light –

They couldn’t make a puncture right

          And never never swear!

 

And look at Tom in parson’s black

A starch-stiff collar, front to back

Why, he’d raise a breezy track

          If he’d a Daniel dare!

Then think of Fred on camping bent,

When back from morning stroll he went

D’you think if he found a cow in his tent

          He’d never never swear!

 

 Though rarely heard is language hot

Plaster saints we are certainly not –

For goody-goods we’ve no use got –

          That kind we cannot bear:

We know the words from ‘a’ to ‘z’

Though mostly they are left unsaid

But without truth was he who said

          They never never swear!                     March 1928