Following The Plough

by | Jun 14, 2013 | Poetry | 0 comments

The old horse and tumble have long gone
The Little Grey Fergie croons its sweet song…
The rigid Old Order. Head Horse, Second Horse.
Fleets of hay. Two hours to bait a horse.
Braided tails, burnished-brass trappings.
Coats polished to a glossy shine.
Ostlers, farriers, haylofts, watering ponds
Cornsack carpets, racking feed…
Stables cleaner than the ramshackle
Old hovels of the farm labourers
Serfs until the liberation of war.
Later, Bevan, funding from Agriculture Committee.
Tractors arriving from the USA in wooden crates
Constructed like giant Meccano sets
from little, or no, instructions.
Those days gone for ever like the rucks-
Of labourers at the farmer’s beck and call.
‘Gee up! Whooa! ‘ can still be heard,
Though The Iron Horse never baulks or snorts
Or thrashes its head impatiently; or
At three o’clock abruptly stops
Listens to its eternal clock…
Tick tick. The works through for the day.
Tick tick. Harsh words, or a prodding stick
Wouldn’t spur a ploughhorse beyond its shift.
As the black hands of the clock gathered rust
Powerful hooves sank deeper into the claggy mud.
Traditional trades have gone from the village green.
The suicide rate’s dropped too.
‘Ma Da’s ‘anged ‘imself ‘n wood wi’ binding twine…’
Echoing through the luxury-barn conversion
with its For-Sale sign.
‘Crooked furrows made us all laugh
The poor ploughman became an object of ridicule.
Dad would cycle around checking neighbouring fields
Report back on which ones weren’t up to scratch
Poking fun at another man’s expense…’
All are now just things of the past, fragmenta
‘Blacksmith’s, Farrier’s, and, “Motor Engine Repairs?”
The Iron Horse never needs to be frostnailed.
No need to rack the feed. Weed the Fat Hen.
Spread muck by fork.
Never again to glance over a fence
And see the ragged line of men waiting
To be paid at the farmkitchen window…
‘Two pounds an’ ten shillings!’
Jack Parson’s was a top thrasher
Thrashing lad too…
Most got less to feed the hungry
mouths of their children.
Who would grow even hungrier
Though they would never stand Indian file
At the farmwindow like their fathers.
Salvation would come with the Great War-
Shoulders no longer covered with cornsack
to keep out the harsh weather.
Men who fought were clothed; and shod,
Though they wouldn’t be home by Christmas,
Nor would they return to farm the land.
For in their burrows men slept with death
And dreamt o’ the lass back home they’d wed
And cursed that this should be their fate
To die for King and Country’s sake….


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