The Unassuming Gash
or Herbal Wedlock


A Norton

  1. My love, I know no softer words
  2. Wring out the old, I say, but try no cause

Listen to reading

My love, I know no softer words
I know no smoother place to lie
Than on the floor, beneath the sky
Beside these bovine herds,
These bovine herds that fly.

Well done, weld on, thou ne'er-do-well;
For thou art better than thou know'st
And, saving brickbats for our host
We ring the Lutine bell
And ape the sailor's ghost.

Go, stealthy one, and seek thy place
Between the Saxon's shoulder-blades;
Let no-one think that man evades
The lovers' tax in Thrace
Where lads disdain no maids.

Wring out the wet and don the dry
And hang the other in the trees
Between Colossus' brazen knees,
Beneath the blazing sky
Afire with honey-bees.

So, honey, say no sweeter words:
I know your banter off by heart
I know your ways (at least in part)
Upset the applecart,
And stir the wrath of unromantic Kurds,
Who can't endure the weeping of the waif
That wanders lonely as a crowd
And talking to itself, out loud,
Declaims the one who vowed
In vain to get his lover back again
To where the vows of love would be as safe
As Becula with Ben,
Or worm in field that never farmer ploughed.

Wring out the old, I say, but try no cause
Nor bring the oldest cause to sorry end
Nor tempt the earnest elder; running sores
Will dog the cause that would to heaven send
The untried point; the quoits we lost at sea
Are quite enough for Julia and for me
Although I have no money for the poor
Nor sturdy citadel which to defend;
Let Orgelusa hear my strain: Perpend!
Let warbling lute and mighty organ roar!

The quires on quinqueremes which seaward sail
Unto the parting shore unleash this song:
This gutta-percha dirge for queen and quail
They sing at speed, for now they have not long:
"Increase your worthwhile ambulance's stroke
And strike not one but many feeble folk
Excelsior!" And as they near the Pole
The weakest fall in faint; and then the strong,
Then women, children, Kings Canute and Kong
And last, yes, least, the humble cabin-vole.

And when we got to Nineveh the harbour-master cried:
"Begone, you evil layabouts, we have no place for you!"

The eldest earner's chequebook, far from new
Was nonetheless as fresh as snow inside;
We counterfeited members of the crew,
Especially those no steersman could abide,
And quizzed the owners of a long dead thing
That never emperor knew, nor mighty king
But nonetheless was crowned in tempest-torn
Cadiz, where all the Phrygian sages died.
That is, where Anne the Androphage was born
Who never could abide the songs we sing
'Tis she of whom I warn you, from inside.

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