Xella: The Years Above
or Mervyn the Marmot
- I sought the truth, the truth I sought.
- My love's like a pea-green leek,
- "Not of this world!" the polecat cried,
- Green grow the noses-o
- She stoops without the need to conquer.
- "Yet once more, O ye cabbages, and once more
- The thought of hope, the hope of thought!
I sought the truth, the truth I sought.
Wide seas I sailed, far lands I roamed.
I plucked a rose in every port
And nodded much, but never homed.
And when, forlorn, I looked for grass
On which to graze or bark my shins,
I found but miles of broken glass,
Medusan mirrors, litter bins ...
The trees were bare, the bears were dead.
Lost in this laval landscape, I
Hoped to find some softer bed
Than that in which I hoped to die.
The thought of hope, the hope of thought,
The fear of bliss in years to come,
The weeping of the Argonaut
For each unfathered child at home.
Let each unmothered child adopt
A rabid tapir from Brazil
(Ensure his fur is aptly cropped)
Or else a Mangrove Swamp Gazille.
Thus it came hither, thus it went.
The deftest darts struck home and true.
Some pierced its hide and some were bent,
But truth had killed the kangaroo.
The rabbits too had died, alas,
Through eating uncooked rhubarb leaves.
They gave off noxious orange gas
And all the world in darkness grieves.
My love's like a pea-green leek,
Like a drip from an old split barrel.
She's mouldy and goldy and ever so meek
But her love is a feller called Harol'.
Harol' the Hartstongue -- thus y-cleped
By the cuppe, the spoone and the saucer --
O'er the buckets and pails he leapt
In a desperate effort to force her.
But Morgan the Margrave was close at hand.
Through acres of mice he ran like fire,
Raving and cursing (egad, it was grand
As a piano), he sank in the mire.
Belching like ancient erupting volcanoes,
Wheezing like geysers that spout to the sky,
Croak what you said who it was whom you say knows,
For life's a pirate (I wonder why).
So my love, like a wizened an‘mic sage,
A dark outrider, enraptured swaying,
Brass feet and clay head (for such is the rage),
Mopping and mowing, barking and braying,
Slaying with slings that are sold by the sea
And wrapping up writhing wee winkles,
She longs to be in her own countree
Where the Lutine bell still tinkles.
Thus Harol' the Hartstongue still roams wild
And climbs the groaning trees in winter.
The spoone and saucer still talk Chaucer-styled
And the cup ran away with the splinter.
"Not of this world!" the polecat cried,
Scratching its hairy underside
And scarcely stooping to divide
The red ones from the yellow.
"Nor of the stars!" the stoat replied
(As, latterly, all rodents cried)
And hardly bothered to provide
Excuses for his bellow.
"Nay, of the deep!" the molluscs crew,
Waving their tentacles aloft,
The which, though barbed, are smooth and soft
As all the Phrygian sages knew.
"Now we retract," the orchids wept,
Giving up their bursicles.
"Chop them off and use your sickles,
O you unspeakable nympholept."
"Never again, O not once more,
Soaring up inwardly above.
No second time, O once my love,
Can mermaids win the matador."
"Alas poor Gloucester, what a fool!
Alas!" the mastodons exclaimed.
The traitors, nameless, proud and cruel,
Because it was the last of Yule,
Eventually were named.
Green grow the noses-o
In the Vale of Vade Mecum.
There they found Wee Moses-o
Telling tales of Harry Secombe.
Whose song has Medusa in it?
The Chanson de Famous Roland,
The twite, the redpoll and the linnet
And the spotted tern of Poland.
Which song has Medusa in it?
"Which has not!" the fulmar cries.
"Tell us, do not lose a minute,"
Shouts Black Morgan from the skies.
Moses and his foe, the Gorgon
(A hopeless case for treatment-o),
Sprayed blue paint at once-black Morgan
And cut in twain the Greekman's toe.
Use this maxim, learn it well.
Tie it in a Gordian knot,
Liberally laced with caramel.
Just simper gently, watch it clot.
So green grew the ghastly crew
On their haunches green and darkly,
Coming back from Timbuctoo
By way of Nagasakli.
Their toes were dead, the gang was green.
The rumour 'tis a mad, mad tale.
But Moby Dick's a mad, mad whale,
And all we said was left unseen.
She stoops without the need to conquer.
Queen of all, she knows no bounds
For hatred 'gainst the men who wrong her,
Or e'en the smallest of her hounds.
Engrossed, she hunches o'er the loom
To weave a tapestry of woe,
For in a brontosaurus' womb
No happy notions ever flow.
Weep, then, O prophets of disaster.
Turn your eyes and hold your hearts.
Let no evil fiend outcast her.
Shun the wild lugubrious parts!
Incensed, she weaves the warlike woof:
A wilderness of shame takes shape;
For heathen spirits need no roof:
Dame Nature's Neckbones need no nape.
Once, riding in a mossy dell,
With staff beside and rod to guide,
Upon a maid her eye once fell:
She joined the staff, she joined the ride.
And into forests lead their path,
By murky steeps and grots unholy;
There, by Gollum's one-time bath,
They prayed so deep and lowly.
But only once the wolf was heard,
And only once the darkling vole.
And then at dawn a broken sherd
Was seen to reach its goal:
O grimly soft-shaped earthen hole!
"Yet once more, O ye cabbages, and once more
Sit you down by the water and sing,
Sing of the leeks, O ye cabbages, and their lore,
And the bee in the tail of the sting.
Turn again, O ye turnips of turpentine,
To the conundrums of Constantine:
Sing once again this song of mine,
Or else be sleeping.
Yet once more, O my blunderbus, once again
Let's hear thy belching thunderous, once again
For the strongest sword in far Touraine,
All else o'erleaping.
For why should the spirit of Myrtle be sad,
Or the quagmires envelope Sir Galahad?
For when will the lyre-bird again be glad
(With all else equal)?
So turn again, ye methylated mangold-wurzels:
Wreak out your wrath on King Guffurzels
And all the rest that Jove emburzelz,
And tell the sequel."
Thus spake the king of the vegetables;
Esteem him and give him due homage.
Feed him with nectar at silver tables;
Credit him with the famoussest fables
That ever came from unripe porridge.
The thought of hope, the hope of thought!
And what price Conrad's glistening glow
When, frowning, studying laws of tort,
He realised 'twas time to go!
The act of going, going acts;
The running sore, a soaring run,
The carrot in the cataracts,
Then home for tea and a currant bun.
In fear and dread, in dreadful fear,
We told the runes, the bells were tolled.
The ruined bells were dire to hear:
My soul was here to die unsold.
The dons were wrung with wrongs undone:
They doffed their shoes, and, bootless, coughed,
And, naked, danced beneath the sun
On ill-made sand, nor firm, nor soft.
The casebook on the bookcase stands
And waits for gravity to fall,
Serene and sombre (like brass bands
That roam the forests of Nepal).
Softly blue and rippling slowly,
Sighing seldom, lying lowly,
Gently, yes, and yet not quitely,
Yields as rock to water wholly,
Over Aphrodite's fields.
©1973, 1999 The Rat Fathom Poets
Edited by Peter Christian
May 31 2023.