Tag Archives: Poetry



You know crowd funding feels a bit like fighting the first war, at times, and with Dragon In The Post a little stuck at 69% funded is sometimes like wading through mud, and perhaps just as futile trying to make a key breakthrough! But when you heart is at its lowest there come the Street Team again to inspire and surprise and, for yesterday’s Memorial for the opening of the First War, commemorated so extraordinarily beautifully in a river of poppies outside The Tower of London, 20 year old Stephanie Jackson’s lovely poem:

Upon the bloodied fields of red,
Above the canon roar,
Among the gathered soldier men,
‘Up and over’
Comes the call
‘Those who turn back you shall shoot’
No cowards will survive,
And into no man’s land
They fled
Upon the battle cry.
And now the fields are green again,
Where bodies fell and lay,
Oh so many years ago,
Upon this fateful day.

Stephanie Jackson August 2014

Whether we win or lose this fight I am so proud, so why not come and share your own work too, your ideas, passions, photos and paintings? Most especially we need a great push now and your interest and contributions by SUPPORTING DRAGON IN THE POST HERE

The photos are of the WWI river of poppies flowing around the walls of The Tower of London. The memorial remains there until November 5th.

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In the oddest of these excerpts from HORRID HEROES AND CRAZY CROOKS by David Clement-Davies comes a very rare bird, originally designed for a collection of nonsense poems and stories called Pollipigglepuggar, but now finding her rightful place at the end of a human hall of fame…


Though PolliPigglepuggar is a nonsense kind of WORD
You CAN’T hunt down in any diction-reeeee,
THE Pollipigglepuggar’ is a most exotic bird,
Who sleeps within the Pollipiggle tree.
As brazen as the Jabberwock,
As brutal as the Jub,
She boasts a certain blabber shock
A kind of ‘there’s the rub’,
Defying good AND monstrous villainy!
With something of the sensless too,
In a lofty place to rook,
Who couldn’t make here hero, no,
Nor even worse a crook,
So I hope her form defies a cator-greeee!
She isn’t quite a Parrot
Though her plumage is akin
And her ears are thin and furry, as a bear,
Her tail looks like a carrot,
While she has a sort of chin,
And wears a set of curlers in her hair.
Her beak is made of lemon peel,
Her eyes are black and blue,
Her call is like the bleating of a goat,
Her favourite meal’s spaghetti
It’s weird, but still it’s true,
She loves to string so loosely round her throat.
While, on her Pollipiggle branch,
She perches day and night –
A look that says – there’s nothing else to do.
Though in those scented piggle leaves,
She’s dreaming of the fright
I gave her when I stole out and went – ‘BOO’.
But just before I tell you
What a racket THAT inspired,
There’s something else to show you all, for free,
Not the colour of those feathers
Or the way her feet are wired,
But the nature of the Pollipiggle Tree.
The Pollipig’s a cousin of the Lollipopple plant,
In the genus of the Ligglepipple root,
Its leaves are made of herbal tea,
Although the branches aren’t,
While its flowers sprout out in rubber, like a boot.
It sways there in the piggle breeze,
Just waiting on some fun
Or that Puggar bird to use it for her bed,
And, since this tree can’t walk with ease,
(The thing can’t even run!)
It’s fond of simply growing up instead!
So there it waits to ponder,
As it blossoms once a year,
When the swooping puggar-puggar will appear,
Until from out of yonder
The thing loops through the air
And settles with a whooping, on its ear.
Behold the Pollipiggle Bird,
A fowl that isn’t deep,
A-landing on its side within the shrub
A bird, you see, that’s so absurd,
It promptly falls asleep
And dreams of bathing nightly in a tub.
So there they snooze together,
Like a perfect pair of chums
A-deep within the pollipiggle wood
And there the tree gets bigger
While the Pollipuggar hums
A tune I can’t remember, though I should.
You see, I’ve quite forgotton
That thing I had in mind,
Namely WHAT the creature cried when given fright;
It screeched out something rotten
When I woke it from behind,
Then called out like an ostrich taking flight:
“oh, polli, pig AND puggar,
oh piggle, puggle, pol
oh, rallop, lipig, gopple, gup and gol
oh luggup, paggle, leppug, paaaa
And glipple loppgup too.
Which really meant no more than;
‘Who are you?”
Oh, I love my Pollipiggle bird
A-sleeping in her tree
With her multicoloured feathers on her wings
And her strange, but polli, habits
Which NEVER seem absurd,
Like those ears that grow like rabbit’s,
Or the piggle way she sings,
And the puggar way she knows just how to be,
While she’s snoring up her Pollipiggle Tree.

Horrid Heroes and Crazy Crooks is under copyright to Phoenix Ark Press, 2014, All Rights Strictly Reserved. If you enjoyed this you might like to read about Vladimir Putin, Dick Whittington, Al Capone, Sweeney Todd and Sherlock Holmes in blogs below. The picture is a Wikepedia image of The Jabberwocky from Alice Through The Looking Glass.

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The next instalment of HORRID HEROES AND CRAZY CROOKS by David Clement-Davies is the true tale of Dick Whittington. If you know the wonderful version by Roald Dahl, all David can say is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!


I think perhaps we ought to skip
The early years of Dirty Dick
Who was (in truth) extremely sad
A crummy little orphaned lad,
The servants treated like a louse
In Hugh Fitzwarren’s London house.
Where, in the kitchens, for his supper
Dick worked and slaved as Washer-Upper
And in the evenings, on the floor,
Slept on a bed of filthy straw
His only friend among the tat
Tiddles, a scrawny Cheshire cat…
So there they’d sit, consuming rum
And toasting better days to come.
Until, one evening, having tea,
Sir Hugh turned to his family
And cried “My dears, it’s time, you know
I let the servants have a go.
I’ll get them to invest their tips
In one of my brand new Merchant ships.”
Fair Griselda (Fitz’s daughter)
Scowled and moaned “You never oughta
Oh blast, oh hell, it isn’t fair”
Then thrust her nostrils in the air.
“My duck,” soothed Hugh “don’t think pa’s sappy
We have to keep the workers happy.
Besides, it really isn’t funny,
But just right now I need the money!”
The household quickly took the hook
The cook whipped out her savings book,
The coachman cried “I’ll try the prank”
The butler smashed his piggy bank.
The only one left out that day
Was Dick, of course, who couldn’t pay.
But then the ruthless little snot
Came up with this disgusting plot.
“I’ll not be exiled from their fiddles
“I know,” he grinned “I’ll give ’em Tiddles.”
So seizing kitty by the scrag
Dick stuffed him in a leather bag
Then sent his only friend to sea
To earn for Dick a monstrous fee.
Which proves that, if you hadn’t guessed,
Dick was a crook, just like the rest.

So now our story changes tack
For no news of the ship came back
Dick waited there, a year and more
For all those riches, held in store,
But got no message from the log
And no news of his travelling mog.
At last the crook began to ditch
This plan to make him Super Rich
And then the dreadful little thief
Purloined Hugh’s spotted handkerchief
And glancing round him, sly and quick
Dick tied it to Hugh’s walking stick.
With all his worldly goods wrapped up:
His toothbrush in a paper cup,
And from the larder, for his tea,
Dick pinched a slab of mouldy Brie.
So Dick set off, at ten to two.
To make his loot, in pastures new.
In several hours, slowing down,
Dick reached the edge of London town
And here it was (as we all know)
That Dicky rested, outside Bow,
Where, after lunch, the lazy chap
Decided that he’d take a nap.
But just as Dick had settled in
The old Church bells began to ring:


Now Richard, who was really thick
Was sure he couldn’t, BLOODY HELL,
Have just been talked to by a Bell!


Well, this bit made the whole thing seem
Just like some awful, cheesy dream.


This clanging made Dick’s fingers itch.
Then gave the dozing snitch a stitch.


At this Dick woke up, with a start,
A mighty thundering in his heart
But rubbed his fingers in his ears


The bells continued with a clang

“WE’VE NOT GOT ALL DAY LONG,” they sang,

As Dick heard what the bells just said
His eyes bulged from his greedy head
Forgetting all about his pack,
To London Town Dick hurried back
Where he discovered, with a grin,
His long lost ship had just come in.
For when (a year before) the liner
Had anchored off the coast of China
Tiddles, that hungriest of cats,
Had gobbled up a plague of rats
And charmed the Nation’s Emperor
(Who’d never seen a cat before)
Then, since his palace was infested
The chinaman had swift invested
So on the spot, right there and then,
Bought Tiddles for a million Yen.
Which was a quite ginormous fee,
In such a dodgy currency!
Yet Dirty Dick could not have cared
A jot how little Tiddles fared.
Instead he hoovered up the dough
And bought a suit from Saville Row
Then, as the richest in the land,
Dick asked Griselda for her hand
Who, though she was absurdly snooty,
Was still delighted by his booty.
So in a carriage, off they go,
To marry in that church in Bow
And now the pair await with glee
The bells enchanting prophecy.
Which proves that if you want to win
Like Richard you must not give in
And also shows, I’m sad to say,
That ruthlessness will often pay.


The last time that we heard of Dick
That horrid boy had turned a trick
And with Griselda, sweet and fair,
Was waiting to become Lord Mayor.
But if, this far, you’ve got the gist
Of Dicky’s story…here’s the twist.
Oh they got married, just near Bow,
Griselda wasn’t happy though
For everyone could plainly see
That Dirty Dick was dastardly.
Since, filthy boy, he held that path
That meant he’d never had a bath
Despised good soap to wash his face,
Yet lorded it around the place,
As poor Grizelda found their lair
Were soon as filthy as her hair.
Almost a tale too foul to tell,
Since no one could abide Dick’s smell,
But also shows why we all bitch –
‘There’s nothing worse than filthy rich!’
Yet as they stewed in noble rot
Now Dick refined his master plot
And bribed the townsmen, one and all,
To make him Mayor of City Hall,
Just as those talking bells had fated,
But as Dick dressed, to be instated
And Grizzy sobbed there, on the floor
There came a knocking at their door.
A furry banging – RAT, TAT, TAT,
And straight in walked a GIANT CAT.
Scrawny Tiddles who, since landing,
On all those rats, had been expanding
And, leaving China, made his fill
In business – working RENT-A-KILL.
The mog was sporting sparkling gnoshers,
Eight inch claws and huge goloshes.
And with a Pot-pourri of Rose,
A giant clothes peg on his nose.
“Meeeeooow” purred Puss, “So Dick, you swine,
You’d sell your Tiddles down the line?”
“Oh no,” cried Dick, “by boiled Salami,
I think I must be going balmy,
It’s bad enough a chatty bell,
But not a talking cat as well!”
Tiddles twitched and licked his paws,
Then opened out those murderous claws
And, with strange glintings in his eye,
He let his vicious razors fly
Across the sofa, round the beds,
Where Dick was swiftly torn to shreds
And smart Grizelda (not a slouch)
Stuffed Dicky’s entrails in the couch,
Then, kissing Tiddles on the nose,
She swooned “Oh Pussy, I propose
That now that Dirty Dicky’s ditched,
You steal his job and we get hitched.”
Which happened, as was only fair,
When Tiddles did become Lord Mayor
And with Grizelda in cahoots
Became that famous PUSS-IN-BOOTS!
And so it was that Griz, the louse,
Installed that couch in Mansion House
Where, on Dick’s stuffing, there they sat
That Lady Mayor and Cheshire Cat,
With lucious tongue to priss and preen,
Since cats are quite superbly clean!
But now I bet you’re wondering why
Those rotten bells had told a lie.
It’s not as strange as you suppose
Since this is how the story goes:
They hadn’t meant LORD MAYOR, as read,
But tried to say HORSE HAIR instead,
(You know, the kind of stuff you get
To fill a couch, or coverlet.)
And since, as all smart children know,
Those chatty bells were made in Bow,
It meant they only ever sang,


Horrid Heroes and Crazy Crooks is under copyright to Phoenix Ark Press, 2014, All Rights Strictly Reserved. The picture is a woodcut from The Famous and Remarkable History of Sir Richard Whittington, Three Times Lord-Mayor of London (1770). If you would like to read about Al Capone, Sweeney Todd and Sherlock Holmes, look at the blogs below.

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St Valentine’s Day has been and gone but never too late for another excerpt from HORRID HEROES AND CRAZY CROOKS by David Clement-Davies. This time to meet the superstar and show maker of them all, Al Capone!!!


Hot off the press this headline runs:
So, kids, I hope you’re not alone,
To hear this tale of Al Capone:
Of all the crooks we’ve met so far,
This killer’s still the SUPERSTAR.
Since Al’s fame, to this dying day,
And when it’s mentioned on TV
Turns BRAVE ENFORCERS off their tea.
In old Chicago, where, it’s said,
Al SHOT his victims STONE COLD DEAD,
A hundred patsies Al gunned down,
That’s just around the edge of town,
With sub-Machine Guns at his chin,
Al PLAYED ’em, like A VIOLIN.
And since the news boys love to shout,
A crook was soon being read about
In Prohibition days, so grim,
Of crooked banks and boot-leg Gin
Enough to leave a drunk impression
And so bring on a Great Depression!:



Until those front page lies were read
By one of Al’s best friends instead:
“Hey, ditch this junk, just hold a mo’,
Dat’s not the Al I used ta know.
Naah, Al was thoughtful, Al was kind,
Yeah, Al Capone was real refined.
The nicest guy I’ve met by far,
He doted on his dear ol’ Ma.
Oh sure, Al robbed a bank or two,
But with those frauds, hey, wouldn’t you?
There ain’t no equal Wall Street mothers
To rival crooks like Lehman Brothers!
Besides, Al had to terrorise a Nation,
To earn himself a reputation.
Yet in his heart of hearts, dis guy
Was sweet, romantic, modest, shy,
And every time he whacked some clown,
The tears, dey nearly made Al drown.
I know the story dat’s ta blame,
For blackening a hero’s name:
Dat day, dey claim, Al went too far,
When rounding up some mugs he hated,
He had the jerks… assassinated.
Yet every kid should know, I guess,
Dem lies were cooked up by da Press,
So listen, to da bitter end,
To Al’S TRUE STORY – (By a friend!)
And wise up to MY bottom line
On Al’s romantic Valentine:

One day, see, there with Snuff, Dutch, Guss and Gene
Al’s diary turned up FEB 14,
The day dat sweethearts, throughs der post,
Sends gifts to thems dey loves da most.
But this made Al Capone upset,
The boss had had no postcards yet,
Nor any broad nor classy dame,
To buy him chocolates or champagne.
‘Hey, Boss, woss up with you?” asked Guss,
‘Aaahhh, nuddin much’ sniffed Al, ‘Don’t fuss,
It’s just….I wish….oh gee, if only
I wasn’t feelin’ so darn lonely.
I knows your boss would feel fine,
If he’d received some… Valentine.’
A sentiment to tempt der fates,
Cos Al was never any good wid dates!
But, wid a most gigantic sigh,
Al wiped one tear drop from his eye.
Then soon a thought ran through that head,
‘I’ll SEND a Valentine, instead,
To all those dirty rats in town
Who’s ever tried ta gun me down.’
‘Dat’s swell,’ cried Snuff, ‘I’ll make em jive”
And Guss pulled out his ’45!
‘It’s noon,’ grinned Al, ‘so not too late,
To get them to agree a date,
Tonight, with us, in some place fancy,
That downtown garage run by LANCEY.’
“Like magic, soon Al’s guest arrived,
The meanest bunch of crooks alive.
Each sporting velvet gangster hats,
In pin striped suites, with patchwork spats,
They slouched, or leant against their cars,
Smoking a box of fat cigars.
With loaded sten guns, inches thick,
With which they’d planned to spring some trick,
On unsupsecting Al, whose heart,
Like meat, they’d serve up in a cart.
The clock ticked by, but still alone,
There was NO SHOW for Al Capone.
Until Fats Diamond turned to say
‘Look, boys, we’ll wait anudder day
To stich up Al, let’s split, you guys’
But then Al cried – ‘SURPRISE, SURPRISE’
And jumped out from behind a Ford,
With thirty mobsters, guns abroad.
‘Jeeees, no,’ blubbed Diamond, with a gulp,
‘I guess that means, us guys, we’s pulp.’
‘Dat’s right’ snarled Al, the Mafia boss,
‘I knows you’ve planned the double-cross,
So says yer prayers and waves goodbye,
Right here, in Lancey’s, time to die!’
The mobsters’ bullets RAT-TAT-TATTERED
Al’s sub machine guns shook and splattered,
Yet, when the smoke cleared in the air,
No single crook was lying there,
Instead, among the smoke and sparks,
A GIANT HEART, in bullet marks,
Was patterned on the garage wall,
Near ten feet wide and five feet tall.
While underneath, the dotted line,
In holes, spelt H..A..P..P..Y……..V..A..L..E..N..T..I..N..E
A nicer fate than being shot
Which sure proves dat Some Like It Hot.
Then, grinning on, cucumber cool,
Capone cried ‘tricked ya, APRIL FOOL!
And from a huge machine gun case,
Capone pulled out a cloth of lace,
A trifle, hampers, knives and forks,
As Gene and me popped Champagne corks,
Then smiling gangsters showered them crooks,
With roses, sweets, romantic books.
As Al, to raise our caper’s tone,
Turned on a wind-up gramaphone,
To which us mobsters, face to face,
Began to Waltz around the place.
Then Dutch, who never played the snitch
Sang Opera arias, perfect pitch,
And tuneful crooks were soon to be
Made men –Sopranos– on TV
As Snuff, a lucky name he had,
Got cast in parts of Breaking Bad
And since Snuff’s skills were never phoney
The mobster even won a Tony!
Which proves what Hollywood always saayes
Der Talent Never Ever Pays.
Yer see, I told ya Al was fine,
He loved his Ma AND Valentine,
Which shows why mobsters, to dis day,
Still wears for AL…A RED BOUQUET.”

HORRID HEROES AND CRAZY CROOKS by DAVID CLEMENT-DAVIES is under Copyright to Phoenix Ark Press, 2014, All Rights strictly reserved. If you enjoyed this read about SWEENEY TODD and SHERLOCK HOLMES in posts below. The image is ‘Little Bonaparte’ among the ‘Friends of Italian Opera’ from Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot.


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To celebrate the brilliant Sherlock Holmes adaptation by the BBC and DR Who team Phoenix Ark Press publish an excerpt from the series HORRID HEROES AND CRAZY CROOKS, about the great detective himself, by David Clement-Davies.


Now here’s a hero you should meet
At 221b Baker Street:
The great detective Sherlock Holmes
Whose tale they’ve faked in endless tomes
With simply not one shred of truth,
Since Sherlock was NO Master Sleuth,
But just a fraud, of crackpot theories,
Outrageous schemes and pointless queries,
Who’d sit there chewing on his pipe
Inventing plots and talking tripe
While criminals, I’m sad to say,
Did ghastly things and got away!
Much worse than that, the urban flunky,
Was secretly a shameless junky
Who drank weird liquids at his bar
Like Creme de Menthe and Advocat
And when he’d downed a proof pure beaker
Would bellow out a loud “Eureka”
His hair would frizz, his pupils whirl
Then green smoke from his nostrils curl
As he’d conclude some crime or other
Had been committed – by his Mother!
Which proves the plots were always lost
As Sherlock got his wires crossed.
Just like the day the milkman rang,
In days when Londen hawkers sang,
To leave a pint of double top
But since he’d spilt some curdled slop
Across his boot the previous night
He’d stained his dark shoes milky white
Sherlock concluded that the guy
Was working as a Russian spy
Paid by a sect of singing jews
Who only danced in two-tone shoes.
Another time the butcher’s boy
Arrived with joint and savaloy
But Sherlock shopped him to the law
Because he’d read, the week before,
The story of some loon who’d done
His boss in, for a pound of tongue.
Alas, when Watson came for tea
As ever punctual – half past three,
With cries of “Holmes, the game’s afoot”
But tripped across a bag of soot
He nearly died there, in the hall
As Sherlock shot him through the wall
Thinking his face, now black and tan,
Was of a conjuring Arab man
And all the work to sweep his grate
A plot to prestidigitate!
And so the bungling list went on
Delighting every London Con
Until, one night, the dozy bloke
Was snoring, furled in orange smoke,
Dreaming his hat had flown in fear
Across a moor, to stalk a deer
Who spoke in riddles like Lestrade
And made his home at Scotland Yard
When came a thumping at his door
“Enter, dear Watson,” Holmes called out
But in walked a dame, of figure stout
Peroxide wig, large powdered nose
And straggling crimson pantihoes
Suspenders, handbag, satin bloose
And quite outrageous high-heeled shoes.
At which Holmes made his worst mistake,
Since, as you’ve guessed, this dainty fake
Was neither maiden blonde nor tarty,
But was in fact…YES… Moriarty:
The terror of the London Bill,
Napoleon of Notting Hill,
And if you paid his crooked fee
Professor of psychiatry!
Yet now Holmes cooed ‘Oh, Stars above’
And Sherlock promptly fell in love,
As Moriarty winked and snickered
Then flashed his criminal cami knickers,
And in a voice like lemonade
Swooned “Mr Holmes, I need your aid,
I’m being molested by some swine
Who sends me presents all the time
Red roses, chocolates, poems flirty
And postcards that are frankly dirty
Then fixing Sherlock with his eye
The dainty Prof began to cry.
“The cad” the drunken sleuth now bawled
“Just tell me what the blighter’s called
And when I’ve caught the filthy varlet
I’ll call this one A Case in Scarlet!”
Professor M began to smile
He dried his tears – crocodile,
But then the cunning Panto Dame
Wrote ‘John’, a famous copper’s name
Who was no stalker, you can bet
But Chief Commissioner – of The Met!
Who must be said, no hint of blame,
Possessed a most unfortunate name.
Yet still Holmes purred “Leave this to me
While Mrs Hudson makes you tea”
So dashing from the room he rendered
A greedy glance at those suspenders.
But, now The Prof was all alone,
He scampered to the telephone
To call the newsdesk and report
The scandal to The Sunday Sport.
Then chuckling loud he closed the call
As Mrs Hudson, from the hall,
Appeared there with a silver tray
Of buttered crumpets, scones, Earl Grey,
But clocked the dame, and something rankled:
That stubbly chin, those thick set ankles.
She dropped the feast, stubbed out her fag
Then rugby tackled him in drag:
That giant wig, she pulled it off
Exposing underneath – the Prof.
“Too late,” snarled M, “this evening Holmes
Will be in prison, sorting combs.”
“Not so,” cried H, “I’ll give you hell”
Yet then she fell in love as well.
“My dear, you’re strange, so soft yet strong”
Purred Mrs Hudson, loud and long,
“Oh marry me, take me away,
I can’t stand Holmes another day
I’ll dress in hobnails, burn my bra,
Become a criminal superstar
And while you mind our house and crib
We’ll strike a blow for Women’s Lib!”
Poor Hudson fancied, I suppose,
Those spikey heels and gorgeous clothes.
Well M agreed to wed the strumpet,
He’d tasted Mrs Hudson’s crumpet,
And since they both admired cross dressing
They had a small Transvestite blessing
As Mrs H became in time
A studied Josephine of Crime
While sad Holmes hit the news that night

At least in gaol he started taking
A course in classic music making
Which was his most outrageous sin
The way Holmes played that violin!


Horrid Heroes and Crazy Crooks is under Copyright to Phoenix Ark Press 2014, All Rights Reserved. The image is http://investigazioni24.wordpress.com and please contact the blog if you would like it removed.

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THE TWO WILLIAMS by Anthony Gardner

Recent travels have brought to mind two poets. Several weeks ago I was in Ireland, and thought inevitably of Yeats, whose poetry illuminated my own upbringing there. A fortnight later I visited Wordsworth country, which I’ve come to know only in the past few years. What, I found myself wondering, would each of these great writers have made of the other’s milieu, had Wordsworth not died fifteen years before Yeats was born? And what would they make of their domains today?

My Irish visit focussed on County Laois – not a region strongly associated with Yeats. But the Georgian mansion in which I stayed (now beautifully and painstakingly restored , as a hotel) was instantly evocative of his ‘Upon a House Shaken by the Land Agitation’, celebrating the virtues of gracious living:

‘…the sweet laughing eagle thoughts that grow
Where wings have memories of wings, and all
That comes of the best knit to the best…’

Many such houses were burned to the ground in the 1920s, and those that survived in the area have had widely different fates. Birr Castle remains the home of the Earl of Rosse, though its grounds and Victorian observatory are open to the public; Stradbally Hall is the setting for Ireland’s leading music festival, the Electric Picnic; Leap Castle (the country’s most haunted) is being restored single-handed, by a professional tin-whistle player, Sean Ryan.

In the Lake District, I visited the village of Lorton, four miles from Cockermouth (the town in which Wordsworth spent his early childhood). Lorton’s most famous inhabitant is an ancient yew tree, to which Wordsworth devoted a short poem, including the lines

‘This solitary tree! A living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed.’

This has proved over-optimistic: the tree is only half the size it once was; but it is still an impressive sight, and the fact that Wordsworth made the pilgrimage to see it brings a small thrill.

Wordsworth did not, to my knowledge, ever visit Ireland, nor Yeats the Lake District; the one place they had in common was London. The fact that Wordsworth, the great poet of nature, should have written the most famous of all poems in praise of the capital – ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ – has always intrigued me. It is curious too (though in keeping with the tradition of the Irish artist in exile) that Yeats’s most famous poem, ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, was inspired by a shop window in the Strand:

‘I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake waters lapping with low sounds by the shore.
When standing on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep earth’s core.’

Wordsworth might have found in this an echo of his own ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’, with its gratitude for memories of nature ‘’mid the din/Of towns and cities’. But I doubt that he would have thought much of Yeats’s lake and ‘bee-loud glade’: it’s far too tame, a world away from the grandeur of the Cumbrian scenery ,which formed his own sensibility with its ‘huge and mighty Forms’. The waterfalls and seascapes which characterise Yeats’s early West of Ireland poems would have left him equally unimpressed, for all the delight of fairies dancing

‘Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light…’

Yeats’s Celtic Twilight is a soft, dreamy thing which the harsh winds that blow with ‘strange utterance’ through Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’ might rip away in a moment.

Let us turn the tables, though, and imagine Yeats visiting Wordsworth at Dove Cottage. He would certainly have approved of the domestic set-up – Mary and Dorothy Wordsworth, indulging William as he himself was indulged by his young wife Georgie. But the building itself? Surely not in keeping with Yeats’s notion of the poet’s role in society: for him the Duke of Urbino’s court or Lady Gregory’s Coole Park were where a great artist belonged, at once creating beauty and finding inspiration in beautiful things. Even the much larger Rydal Mount, to which Wordsworth moved in 1813, would hardly fit the bill.
Perhaps Wordsworth takes him across the fells to visit the family’s old home in Cockermouth. Now owned by the National Trust, it ranks second only to Cockermouth Castle in the town. ‘That’s more like it,’ thinks Yeats; but Wordsworth has a bitter tale to tell about the aftermath of his father’s death, and the failure of John Wordsworth’s employer, a landowner on a grand scale, to repay an enormous sum owing to the family. No wonder he doesn’t share his guest’s enthusiasm for the splendid dwellings of the rich.

He might approve, though, of the home Yeats creates for himself in later life. Thoor Ballylee in County Galway is a ruin restored

‘With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge…’

but even after refurbishment it’s pretty uncomfortable. To Yeats its greatest importance is as a symbol from which he draws inspiration for ‘The Tower’ and other great late poems. Wordsworth is stirred by ruins, too, from those of Tintern Abbey, to the ruined cottage which symbolises a peasant family’s suffering in the eponymous poem.

Can we picture the two men working side by side as Wordsworth did with Coleridge? Not easily. For one thing, Wordsworth likes to walk while he is composing, while for Yeats writing is ‘sedentary toil’. But from time to time he climbs to the top of the tower and looks about him. How different Galway in the 1920s is from the gentle countryside of his youth!

In the final part of ‘Mediations in Time of Civil War’ he sees phantoms of hatred sweeping across the sky in a ‘rage-driven, rage-tormented and rage-hungry troop’.

Perhaps Wordsworth accompanies him up onto the roof after dinner and they confront the tumult like a pair of King Lears, the wind blowing their white hair into halos. But I suspect not: Wordsworth has seen enough of bloody civil strife during the French Revolution – for him such things are best considered in the light of a new day, as in ‘Resolution and Independence’:

‘There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods…’

For today’s visitor to the Lake District, these lines recall the terrible floods which assailed Cockermouth and Workington last winter. I think Wordsworth would be impressed by how his birthplace has picked itself up again, and reassured that the stoicism of the local people still endures – though saddened by the way in which traditional agriculture has been eclipsed by tourism.

As for Yeats’s homeland, it is significant that when Ireland was forced to accept the EU’s financial support a few months ago, the Irish Times quoted his ‘September 1913’ in its leader:

‘Was it for this…
…………that all the blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?’

Only Yeats at his most magnificently scathing could do justice to the ignominy brought upon his country and the spectacle of picturesque landscapes lost to thousands of unfinished houses.

It is possible that the two great poets would not have got on at all. Wordsworth was not known for his kindness to younger writers, and made a poor impression on Keats when the latter came to pay his respects. Yeats counted Wordsworth among his early heroes, but was more critical of him in middle age:

He strikes me as always destroying his poetic experience, which was of course of incomparable value, by his reflective power. His intellect was commonplace and unfortunately he had been taught to respect nothing else.

Nevertheless, roaming the countryside together, I think they would have found shared sympathies – for example, their concern for ordinary people, such as the shepherd deserted by his son in Wordsworth’s ‘Michael’, or the old pauper in Yeats’s ‘Adam’s Curse’ breaking stones ‘in all kinds of weather’. Indeed, if I had to choose the poem by Yeats that brought him closest to Wordsworth, it would be his description of his ideal reader, ‘The Fisherman’:

….his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down-turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream;
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream…’

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Anthony Gardner April 2011. The public domain photos are Wordsworth by Robert Haydon, Yeats by Augustus John, Birr Castle, The Lorton Valley, Westminster Bridge and Hall, painted in 1808, a year after Wordsworth declared ‘Earth hath not anything to show more fair’ and Dove Cottage today. Anthony is profiled below and his novel ‘The Rivers of Heaven’ is published by Starhaven.

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