"The Jug"
or "A Cerebral Palsy"

  1. As the chicken to the cabbage, so the walnut to the swede,
  2. She leapt to her feet with a cry of dismay;
  3. "Take that!" he cried, and kicked the hopeful frog
  4. I bled to death on Highgate Hill.

Listen to reading

As the chicken to the cabbage, so the walnut to the swede,
An incorrigible dictum of the Venerable Bede.
I've wasted words for week and weeks and still no sense you speak.
I've boiled myself in oil just to curb that squeamish shriek.
As the crayfish to the octopus, the bedesman to the loach.
The horse unhorsed the driver who was paid to coach the coach.
I've asked the mayor to ride the mare, the clerk to read the rote,
The jeweller to line my hat with gold and peridote.
As the lapidary ladies to the mineshaft, thither coaxed
By the subtle semi-satrap from the Vale of Krabatoaxed,
To look for semi-precious stones and worthless ones as well
And to wash their skins in ether and to wring them like a bell.
As the women oiled the liftcar, and the foreman raised his fist,
Then the Welder raised his eyebrows, and the Wrestler broke his wrist,
Came the hoarse of clattered hoofsteps on the cobbles of the town
As the middle-aged pretender was about to claim the crown.
As the coroner, didactically, pretended to be dead
Came the crayfish cry, "Then let him die!" and, "Amputate his head!".
But they took away his body, and left the head behind.
Does the heart contain the spirit, does the pelvis house the mind?
Do the houses mind the pelvis, does the body heed the limbs,
Does the puritanic Welder mind the elves that sing no hymns?
See the Pilgrim Father father fewer paltry pilgrim sons.
See the sunny cunning punster make unfunny, puny puns.
As the punster to the pilgrim, so the manhole to the maid;
Though the cobra may be soberer, the adder's twice as staid.
Though the viper may vituperate, she eats the adder's cake
Then, putting on her Sunday best, she wallows in the lake.
As the miners to the milliner, the jewellers to the Jack --
The Welder was a humble man: he knew when to turn back.
The Queen and King, through thick and thing, they knew when to turn black.

She leapt to her feet with a cry of dismay;
No vigilant sage her fears could allay.
No diligent vassal who cudgels the mass,
Nor masculine cowhand could save her, a lass.
For how can a cowhand deserve such a fate
When bulls with four feet cannot open a gate
And a gate cannot hinder a four-footed bull.
Learn to hinder the heron, and fling to the full
And the wide-open spaces the philistine grebe
That quakes in the quagmire and gloats in the glebe.
The welkin exhibits no greater prestige
Than the drunkard who mutters, "My ankle! My knees!".
The Welder, the wheelwright, the maker of loaves,
The cobbler who chews on chameleon cloves ...
The Peasants' Revolt! Was it 80 B.C.,
Was it April, November, or Januaree?
Was it raining that day, or was Edward the Third?
Did Robert the Bruce know the way of the Kurd?

Now little Miss Muffet she relished a Strudel:
(Her last had been scoffed by a vigilant poodle)
I told you the system was Feudal:

I told you the system was atrociously bad.
I told you twelve times 'til you thought me insane,
I told you the system was mad.

For why should the spirit of mortal be sad,
When hopes can be high, and rags can be glad?
And why should the marital spirit decay
When a wedding can last for a year and a day,
And a funeral more than a miser could say
Or a diligent vassal (on half of his pay)?
Unerringly witty, but sombrely clad,
For what can the spirit of mortal be had?

"Take that!" he cried, and kicked the hopeful frog
Who'd fawned so long at Deirdre's bedside bed,
Where Deirdre's sister slept as if a log
Had barked her shin and shunned her barking head.

The hopeful frogs and pessimistic toads,
The nubile salamanders and the newts
Were hitching, hiking, spawning in the roads,
And swimming for the town by divers routes.

"The town!" they cried, "Where we shall all be saved,
If doglike Deirdre grants the boon we craved.
Princesses shall we kiss, and turn to carp
That play sweet water music on the harp."

The pyre lay ready in the market-place
For the fishmonger's nephew whose soul was reprieved
For the desp'rate distiller whose dice were deceived
And the bishop who fled at a furious pace
To the zone where the zebra is better believed,
And the swift are the best, and the hares win the race.

"The town, the town, the town, the town, the town!"
Get up, sit back, fall short, move out, lie down!
Pursue, rescind, elope, transpose, give blood!
Invoke, intone, imbibe, insult, sling mud,

But never, never, never curdle ice,
And never heed this sensible advice,
This maxim Deirdre's sister used, ignore
Amphibians and reptiles and their lore.
The hopeful frog kicked out and cried, "Take that!"
And Deirdre turned once more into a rat.

I bled to death on Highgate Hill.
I rose to heights hereto unknown to Man
Or artisan.
For Art is a Narcotic Pill
And kills the soul as no narcotic can.

I bled to death as Artists must.
I dyed deep red my soft four-poster chair
And, debonair,
They ban her for her loathsome lust,
The same that led her to the lion's lair.

I bled to death as kings of yore.
I cried in monarch's tones, "A haversack!"
A lass I lack,
A daisy calls me to the fore
And scurvy autumn crocus pulls me back.

And shall you bleed, who follow me,
Or see my sanguine bath o'erflow with gore?
I ask no more.
Talísman try to swallow me.
That line's exceeding bad, appalling poor.

And shall you follow me who bleed?
And you shall bleed, who dare to criticise!!
I die for pies:
I crave the Cassowary seed.
I saw the craving in Cassandra's eyes.

Despite all this, I bled unseen;
I sank to depths unknown, uncared for I.
Unknown, I lie
Surrounded by the green
That is some corner of a foreign sky.

©1973, 1999 The Rat Fathom Poets
Edited by Peter Christian
May 31 2023.