Of Vermin and Villeins

by | Jul 6, 2009 | Poetry | 0 comments

It was a scene from any period of English rural history.
A sheer limestone cliff rose up close behind me,
To my left and right, mature deciduous trees
Clustered in their copses
And to my front, the gentle river was bordered by grass
– Kept short by currently absent livestock.

Out there, all of the river valley to the horizon
Was a lush green, bounded on either side
By upward slopes and more copses.
Beneath the warm, blue sky and its cotton wool clouds,
Memories of the land of my birth and childhood
Flooded back to mind.

Truly, I had found another English heaven.
My words alone – inadequate to describe it.
A man might carve out a cave home in the cliff
And live happily as a hermit amid such tranquillity.

And there, on a little, raised ledge at the base of the cliff,
Sheltered by a slight overhang
Lay the fox.
It had been there, perhaps only a few days,
But in the summer heat wave
Nature’s decaying agents had been busy
And his pelt was sinking rapidly.

The cause of his demise, I could not guess,
But he had crept there to die in state
And his posture was one of comfortable resignation,
A creature ready for death and looking patiently,
For its arrival from the east along the valley.

Old foxes, old soldiers,
Vermin and villeins,
Simple souls and both hunted in their different ways.
Seeking first, the thrill of survival and thereafter,
The sanctuary of serenity.
Brother Fox, you died well.
Would that I too, might be able face my own destiny
And grace England’s simple heart in a like fashion.


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