Mummers by Ian Duhig ; THE SUNDAY POEM ++ (Earsdon, 1913)
Their Doctor of Potions feels sick.
St George (with their squeeze-box) is late.
Their Captain's been hitting the drink.
The audience aren't going to wait.
With pit-pony strigils for swords,
tin-whistles to squeak out their jig,
red hoggers, white shirts and blue weskits,
they've iron-soled clogs to sound big.
Blacked-up like he'd come straight from work,
their Fool wears a huge pair of drawers;
his hair is the last sheaf of corn:
it tips back his head and he roars:
My mother you burnt for a witch,
my father you hanged from a tree;
but now I'm the sword-dancers' Fool
and who will dare meddle with me?
His calling-on song starts their play:
the audience quivers and quakes;
the publican mouths all their words;
his little boy shivers and shakes.
And next year they'll tremble no less
at the song in another Fool's throat
when this year's is dancing in France
to a whistle with only one note;
where the boxes they brought aren't for music -
like the Captain, they always keep mum;
where St George rolls up pit-pony eyes
and the Doctor of Potions can't come. …