Robin Gordon

Part II:
Poems of  the
Eighties and

Auksford arms: agreat auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
Auksford, 2019

Copyright Robin Gordon, 2019


Breathless hush

The love-song of the plaintive cat

The Young Visitors

The sad fate of the Lady Jingly Jones

The chandelier

Salacious Glob

The Rules of Cricket

Thon Gowks

Haud yer wheesht

Whit ails thee, James McFail?

Concerning the modern tendancy towards
the utilization of inflated discourse to lend
undeserved authority to commonplace ideas

Some limericks



First day of term

De la beauté de la langue française

To a dog-lover

The Serpent and the Dove

The Wolf and the Lambs

The late Justus Eck, Philosopher




Part II: Poems of the eighties and nineties

Breathless hush
(Early 1980s)

Inspired by the account of a friend of a friend about  the end of his schooldays, when he and his classmates scragged the prefects.

There's a breathless hush in the prefects' room,
anticipation of their doom.
It's the end of term, it's the end of the year.
5C's on the rampage and that's what strikes fear
into the heart of many a youth
who's fought for discipline and truth.
In other years, the rumours say,
the pre's were scragged on the fifth's last day.

The love-song of the plaintive cat

The love-song of the plaintive cat
is dazzling underneath the moon,
while you and I would talk or chat,
and he and she would croon and spoon.

No spooning for the plaintive cat!
he caterwauls beneath the moon
in months like January and that,
while you and I would seek out June.

The Young Visitors
(ca 1981)

Ruby studs for Mr S.
at a sale cost rather less,
to his rather great delight.
A gentleman?  Not quite.

Red rouge on cheeks because of drains,
no egg for brekky 'cos of trains,
arriving to see, quite full of euphoria,
a sinister son of Queen Victoria.

The sad fate of the Lady Jingly Jones
(Undated, early 1980s?)

    On the coast of Coromandel
lies a little heap of bones,
the remains of that brief candle,
the Lady Jingly Jones,
who had pined away quite sadly
when the Yongi Bongi Bo
had sailed away so madly,
for she really loved him so.
    Meanwhile, in England walking,
the Yongi came to Dorking,
and called to say "Good day," to Handel Jones.
Well, soon they fell a talking,
and scrambled eggs a-forking,
and Handel sobbed that Jingly never phones.

The Chandelier,
or An aesthetic librarian


I think this must have been inspired by my description of the aesthetic librarian Rupert Todd, a minor character in Alarms and Excursions concerned with projects to split the catalogue into separate centuries so that entries for different impressions of the same book would be in different catalogues, and with sourcing “early Renaissance tablelamps” for the reading rooms.

A certain person, call him Giles,
came frisking in, all wreathed in smiles.
"I'm going to buy a chandelier,"
he honked, "and hang it up in here!"

"But, Giles," I said, "what of the cost?"

"Don't waste my time!  I count as lost
all money spent on books and things
that common people use.  This brings
a most distinguished air into
the library: a charming view.

Those catalogues will have to go
to clear a wider space here so
that - yes! - chaises longues can be installed.

"But why?" I asked, now quite appalled.

He looked at me and turned bright red
then deathly white, and this he said:
"Is this the loyalty I've earned?
How dare you question words of mine?
An insult to my right divine!

If I decide that things must go,
then out they fly.  It must be so.
These German and Italian books,
who reads them now?  Who even looks
at anything except Voltaire,
excepting always bindings rare,
and watermarks, and chain lines too -
aesthetic things that such as you
don't understand, you are to dull.
Now leave me!  I must go and pull
those lampshades straight and realign
them.  Onerous as these of mine
few duties are, so let me be!"

Then off he frisked with snorts of glee.

Salacious Glob,
or The globular gossip


One final word,
beware Salacious Glob,
for all that's seen and heard
of private life or job
she'll twist to her own ends,
and vilify her friends.

Of this make what you will.
I'll speak no further ill
of her, but let my muse
take up her broken snooze.

The Rules of Cricket
(May 1982)

For all I know, Miss Trickett, whoever she was, may be an expert on the rules of cricket.  It was the rhyme that I liked.   

The rules of cricket,
dear Miss Trickett
are really quite complex.
T'would tax the brain
them to explain
to persons of your sex.
But still I'll stick it,
dear Miss Trickett,
as an allotted task,
and ball by ball
I'll give you all
the gen you need to ask.

Beside the wicket,
dear Miss Trickett,
a mighty man there stands.
In white he's clad
from cap to pad.
A bat is in his hands.

There stands a picket,
dear Miss Trickett,
of other chaps in white,
here and there,
and all their care:
to catch what he may smite.

If he should snick it,
dear Miss Trickett,
when once the bowler's bowled it,
and it should fly
right up so high,
and one of them should hold it,

he leaves the wicket,
dear Miss Trickett,
because he has been caught.
The verdict's just,
and so he must
do as a sportsman ought.

Thon Gowks
(ca 1984)

Thon gowks are nae sae daft.
It's them that's laughed
last, and that's the best.
They hae nae nest
but miss the cauld and rains
and bairnie's pains
while ithers dae the graft
- they're nae sae daft.

Haud yer wheesht!
(ca 1984)

Haud yer wheesht, ya glaikit beastie,
dinna fash yersel, ma hairt.
Whit a panic's in ma breastie,
stouried up by love's black airt.

Haud yer wheesht, ye daft we gowk,
dinna fash yersel, ma bairn.
Ye've lost yer love like ither fowk,
a stane upon the cairn.

Puir wee tim'rous tatty-bogle,
dinna let a' they fowks ogle
sich bairnie tears. Cry "Sod it!"
Mind on that yer love is deid.
Hairt, tak notice o' yer heid,
and tak yer wheesht and haud it!

Whit ails thee, James McFail?
(ca 1984)

I hear the capercailzie wailing in the kale,
"Whit ails thee, James McFail?
Ye sup yer ale,
Ye're hale,
Ye're no in jail -
Whit ails thee, James McFail?"

I bide here by the fire,
the kine are in their byre,
the wrens are in their nest,
but I can get nae rest.
Like chickens that go picken
unbidden in the midden
ma wanton thought, the whore,
goes stirring up the stour,
and though behind the byre
the paddocks in the mire
are croaking through the gloom,
I hear the voice of doom.
It weeps
among the heaps
of neeps
and sadly keeps
its everlasting tryst.
I stairt and say, "What is't?"
The kine are in their byre.
I bide here by the fire.
I'm hale,
I sup ma ale,
and I am no in jail.
But yet
I fret
and hear the capercailzie
wailing in the kale,
"Whit ails thee, James McFail?"

Concerning the modern tendancy
towards the utilization
of inflated discourse
to lend undeserved authority

to commonplace ideas


Oh the curse of the age is verbosity.
It is worse than the rage for pomposity
If writing were pared
like m x c2
we'd be terse as the sage of velocity

Some Limericks
(ca 1985-86)

There was an old man of Dundee
wore trousers with only one knee.
When people asked why,
he replied with a sigh,
"Well, the left has the right to be free."

There was an old woman of Rye
who made a preposterous pie.
She put in three toads
that she found on the roads.
I think if she eats it she'll die.

There was a young woman of Bude
who liked to sing hymns in the nude.
The archdeacon and dean
were quite pleased with the scene,
but the bishop proclaimed it was rude.

There was an old man of Kintyre
who sat forty years by the fire.
When they said, "Are you hot?"
he replied, "No I'm not,"
but was seen to distinctly perspire.


The first stanza quotes three lines of Goethe, the second quotes Annette von Droste-Hülshoff.

Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh.
In allen Wipfeln spürst du
kaum einen Hauch.
Die Vögelein ruhen im Walde,
warte nur balde ...
Da sind sie nun, die Moto-Boys.
Mein Ruh ist hin!  Oh Weh!  The noise!
Ich wandle, wackle, werde bleich ...
Suchen wir den stillen Teich.

Er liegt so schön im Morgenlicht,
so friedlich wie ein fromm Gewissen.
Libellen zittern über ihm
und ...
Krummp, Drummp, Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum!
Wruumm.  Wrumm-wrumm-wrumm-wrumm!
Was hammir hier?  Motorenklang?
Oder ... wär' es möglich?  Musik?  Gesang?
Das ein, das and're, eingemischt.
Motoren, Hörner, Trommeln und ... was zischt,
ungeheuer, wie die Schlange.
So laut, so laut.  Mir wird es bange.


Over all the peaks is peace
in all the treetops you can trace
scarcely a breath.
The little birds are at rest in the forest
wait a little, soon ... 

The missing line is "ruhest du auch", "you too will be at rest."

There they are, the moto-boys
My rest is gone.  Oh woe!  The noise!
I wander, stumble, turn quite pale
Let us seek the silent pool.

It lies so still in the morning light
as peaceful as a pious conscience
dragonflies tremble above it / and ..."
Krummp, Drummp, Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum!
Vruumm.  Vrumm-Vrumm-Vrumm-Vrumm!
What have we here?  Motor noise?
Or … is it possible?  Music?  Song?
The one, the other, all mixed up.
Engines, horns and drums and …
    what’s that hissing?
So loud, so loud  It frightens me.

(Undated, 1980s)

Now is the season of joy and of greeting.
Now is the season of drinking and eating.
Now is the season of over-indulgence
bathed in the glow of religious effulgence.

First day of term
(Undated, ca 1989).

"First day of term,
you little worm,"
said sister Sue.
"I wonder what they'll do to you.

"I like this time of year,
when new boys quake with fear,
and sidle through the gate,
all wondering what fate
has up its sleeve.

New kids look really neat -
new uniforms, how sweet -
but then the boys get done.
We all have such great fun
you scarcely would believe.

"It's great at school.
It's really cool
the things they do.
I wonder what they'll do to you.

"Look, Mummy, he's gone white,
school gives him such a fright.
Don't worry.  I'll be there,
taking special care.
I'll make sure you squirm.

"Let's go.  We can't be late
today.  I'd really hate
to miss the first-day fun.
Bye Mum.  We'll have to run.
Come on, you little worm.

"New boys get jumped
and scragged and bumped,
or dragged away.
I wonder how you'll like your day.

"The boys will lie in wait
for you inside the gate.
They'll punch you and they'll kick you.
With compasses they'll prick you.
They'll grab you by the tie
and pull so hard the knot'll
slide up and nearly throttle
you.  They'll call you Mummy's pet
if you so mach as let
a tear come in your eye.

"Some boys are dragged
off to be scragged
inside the loos -
and I'll make sure it's you they choose.

"What's done they never tell.
We just hear the victims yell.
Do they cover you with gunge?
Will they grab your head and plunge
it down into the loo?

"Do they operate the flush
so the water, in a rush,
washes off the sticky mess?
Well I hope the answer's yes,
and they do it all to you!
"The boys come first
and do their worst,
then, when they're through,
we girls will go to work on you.

"The trophies that we prize
are not just scarves and ties.
From your shoes we'll pinch the laces,
then we'll nick your belt and braces
and the slider from your zip.

"Then we'll rip off all your buttons -
yeah, we're proper little gluttons -
and any hooks or buckles
we will seize with hoots and chuckles.
We just grip and rip and strip.

Some little squirts
will lose their shirts
and some their shoes.
I wonder what you're going to lose.

"There straight ahead's the gate.
I'll leave you to your fate."
In fear and perturbation
of a school initiation
his heavy feet were dragging.

His confidence had crumbled.
He felt quite small and humbled.
The playground was immense.
The milling crowds were dense.
He'd not escape his scragging.

His fearful hangdog mien
was very quickly seen
and eager bullies came,
thinking him fair game.

The pulled his hair and ears
with cruelly mocking jeers.
"The new boy's going to cry!"
One seized him by the tie

and pulled it so he choked.
"Get off me," Matthew croaked.
One grabbed him by the shirt.
"The sissy baby's hurt!"

They spun him round and round
till he fell onto the ground,
then they piled on and he felt
them fumbling at his belt.

Alas for Matthew, hear him curse,
for he can think of nothing worse
than such a dreadful public scragging
culminating in debagging.

But worse there is, for now he hears
girlish voices, and his fears
redouble as he fights to keep
his trousers on beneath the heap.

But now the lads are plucked away
and someone says, "Are you OK?"
It's sister Sue.  Her fury turns
upon the bullies.  How she burns

their ears, how she excoriates
them, blasts them and exterminates
their swaggering pride.  A lioness
would think her roaring an excess.

"Pick on someone your own size,
you rotten bullies!" now she cries.
"At least you'd better pick another!
"No-one hurts my little brother!"

De la beauté de la langue française
(Undated, about 1989)

Despite the much vaunted richness of the French language those exemplars of French youth who swarm about the streets of England every summer seem to know only one vowel: euh.

1. Les touristes français

Eux, ils ne crient que d'oeufs.
Ah, mon Dieu!  Oeufs!  Oeufs!
Ah mais tous deux, sacré bleu!
Euh! ... Eux ... oeufs!  Euh!

2.  Le beuglement des boeufs

Malheureux qui a peur des boeufs.
Ah!  Cieux!
Mais la peur du beurre ...
Ah, si je peux ...
aheu ... euh ...
Beurre, malheur, pleure!
Pleure, quoi,
comme moi.
Ah les oeufs,
le beuglement des boeufs!
Comme ça,

To a dog-lover
(Undated, about 1989)

Who's the charming gent or lady
- these terms are loosely here applied -
who walks beneath the trees so shady,
who strolls about the meadows wide,
who takes a dog upon the track
that leads into our public park,
who takes it out and brings it back,
delighting in its doggy bark?

Who is it that with careful training
where and when a dog must shit,
every day, except when raining,
has made the pooch deposit it,
fresh delivered, just on eight,
in ambush in the narrow gate?

Oh please take heed of this brief warning,
let your conscience now be pricked,
or dog and owner one fine morning
may find themselves both soundly kicked.

The Serpent and the Dove
(July 1989)

"Oh Dove,
Symbol of love,
fly down," cried the snake,
"to me in the dust.
Wingless and legless, I'm just
an impotent worm.
I squirm
helplessly here in the dirt,
unable to help, unable to hurt,
unable to walk, unable to fly.
I long to ask why
the Lord has created me so.
Why make me so low?
Oh you, who are favoured with flight,
pity my plight.
He takes on your shape when he wills,
the Curer of Ills.
He'll listen to you.
Fly down to me do.
I'll whisper my sins in your ear
so no-one will hear.
Then fly to the Heavens on high
and take my lament and my sigh
to the Lord, to the Just,
lest I die in the dust."
The dove flew down, the serpent struck.
"Cunning is the better part of luck,"
observed the snake.
"My sorrow's fake,
my venom's real,
as this delicious bird can feel."

Fine words
are for the birds,
and parsnips are not buttered
by all the grease that's uttered.
All that glisters, we are shown,
may not be gold, but by its fruit its known.

The Wolf and the Lambs
(31 January1993)

An old grey wolf, grown cunning through the years,
came to the sheep and said, "Pray calm your fears.
I am your friend. There's none loves you so well."
The nature of his love he did not tell.

"To see you thus penned up within the fold,
it saddens me, it breaks my heart of gold,
for sheep, as individuals, should be free,"
he said, "at least that's how it seems to me."

"The trouble is, you've listened to your rams
too long. They look for trouble. Choose two lambs,
for from the mouths of sucklings wisdom prates,
and let them meet with me to fix your fates."

Two newborn lambs were flattered by his charm
and thought he was a dog who'd do no harm.
He walked with them about the flowery meads,
and talked with them of all his mighty deeds.

"If I am here to keep you safe, why then
you need not huddle close within your pen,
o wisest of all sheep and lambs," he said,
and skilfully he turned each lambkin's head.

So back they went and cried, "Let's leave the fold!
This doggy will protect us, though he's old."
--- But if they should believe that old wolf's lies
he'll feast on many a sheep before he dies

The late Justus Eck, Philosopher
(8 October 1993)

Of all the great philosophers
    whose thoughts on Time are known,
some modest in expression
    and others overblown,
of those who talk of God and Time,
    as prophet, priest or preacher,
and those who talk of Man and Time
    like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche,

there's one who'll be remembered
    when all the rest are dust.
His field's procrastination:
    do nothing till you must.
His name is known to every child
    and overburdened wreck.
You must have called on him yourself:
    the famous Justus Eck.

Now when I call my children
    and say it's time for school,
they never come as soon as called
    instead they play it cool.
They saunter and they dawdle,
    they comb their hair and deck
themselves in scarves and trinkets
    and shout out "Justus Eck!"
Suppose you phone an office
    and say, "Please expedite
my order, it is urgent,"
    (as very well you might),
all you may hear in answer's
    a call on that effec-
tive patron of delayers,
    the saintly Justus Eck.

Or if, when tired of phoning,
    you think it time to beard
the bureaucrat within his lair,
    it's just as you have feared.
"Please may I see the big white chief?"
    - You're weary from your trek -
but at reception all they do
    is murmur: "Justus Eck."

But when at last the reaper comes
    and life draws to its end,
procrastination's limits show:
    it's time to die, my friend.
Can nothing halt the reaper's scythe
    whose blade is at your neck,
no magic spell or Word or Name?
    You could try "Justus Eck!"

(2. Feb. 1995)

This poem was inspired by the claim of the appalling Sir Iain Vallance of British Telecom that he worked harder than any junior doctor.  The Daily Telegraph shadowed him on a typical day and his "work" seemed to consist of reading the morning papers, signing letters dealt with by his secretary, having a phone conference, and going to lunch.

"Snouts in the trough, boys!  Snouts in the trough!
Grab all you can guzzle!  Grab all you can scoff!
An executive's life is incredibly tough."
No wonder he thinks he's entitled to stuff.

He is chauffered to work, where he meets all his chums
for a hard-working lunch – for their teeth and their tums – Then he's off to a meeting to talk about work
and how to get more out of workers who shirk,

and how to get more out of people who pay
for water and lighting and heating each day.
These cunning execs then award to each other
directorships, bonuses - brother to brother -

to keep the wheels oiled and the train on its track.*
When evening has fallen they're all chauffered back,
and there between watching their doses of porn
they look at the news.  That's when they pour scorn
on overworked doctors and underpaid nurses.
"They're idle!" they cry.  "Not just idle, what's worse is,
they're greedy and out to grab all they can get,
like teachers and miners, the whole leftie set.

"Privatisation's the answer," they cry.
"Put it all in the hands of people like I.
It's we who make wealth, let us cream the best off,
so snouts in the trough, boys!  Snouts in the trough!"

*The train is of course the City of London Gravy Express

The City of London Gravy Express
is a privatised train for those whose success
in grabbing and guzzling their share of the spoils
of privatisation continually foils

ideals of society based upon justice.
Our Government's policy's principal thrust is:
"Rewards to the rich, let all of the rest
drop out, die and rot!"  No wonder we're stressed.

(12 October 1995)

My son was asked to write a poem about Bosnia for his English homework.  I wrote one too.

The knock came at the door just after ten
and Mum was scared to see so many men,
but Dad said, "Look, there's Joe and Tom and Pete,
and Bill and Ted who live just down the street."
He recognised his friends from down the pub,
those mates of his with whom he shared his grub
at noontime underneath the shady trees.
He opened up the door with friendly ease.
"What's up, lads.  Is a cow stuck in the stream?"
The rest I see, slow motion, like a dream.

Tom had a spade.  He hit Dad on the head.
"You filthy Croat!  You're dead meat!" he said.
"You think you own this house, you Croat swine?
This land is ours!  It's Serb!  This house is mine!
Your field is Bill's!  Your vegetables are Ben's!
And Pete and Ted will have your goats and hens!"

They hit him hard with shovels, stakes and stones.
I saw his blood.  I heard his cracking bones.
"We'll murder you, you filthy Croat spy!"
He fell beneath their blows - and just said: "Why?"
They drove us out, my sister and my brother,
the baby, me, my grandma and my mother.
We had upon our backs the clothes we wore
and nothing else, as, driven from the door,
we fled to find some friendly Croat folk.
Our neighbours laughed. They thought it quite a joke.

That night the field we slept in turned to Hell:
a crowd of refugees hit by a shell.
They're dead, all dead, all scattered in the mud,
and only I'm alive, drenched in their blood.
My legs are trapped, my hands blown off, I'm blind.
One question now torments my clouding mind.
One answer I must know before I die:

(8 March 2019)

Well, there it is.  Was reading worth the candle?
You must admit that I can clearly handle
the technicalities of English verse.
However, if you hoped for consolation,
philosophy or grief’s attenuation,
perhaps you are inclined to swear and curse,
but don’t, I pray, do anything that’s worse.

Just don’t forget, I said right at the start
my poems display the versifier's art,
and only set themselves to entertain.
There’s humour here and tricky little rhymes.
I hope that they have made you smile at times,
for innocent enjoyment is a gain
amid this world’s insanity and pain.

Please remember that these poems are copyright.
See Copyright and Concessions for permitted uses.

Poems, Part I

Index to Robin Gordon's works

Auksford Index

Send an e-mail to Robin Gordon at robingordon.auksford@gmail.com