Although I’m suffering from my usual Monday energy gap – which normally lasts until some time on Thursday afternoon – it’s about time that the Monday poetry slot got filled on a Monday. I’ve decided to try for a lighter tone today, so please excuse me if you wanted to be depressed.

The first poem was written by Captain J.D. Olive for trainee pilots in the first half of the last century. Other than that it’s pretty self-explanatory.

The Pilot’s 23rd Psalm

1. As the telephone operator who giveth wrong numbers so is he who extolleth his exploits in the air.

2. He shall enlarge upon the dangers of his adventures, but in my sleeve shall be heard the tinkling of silvery laughter.

3. Let not they familiarity with aeroplanes breed contempt, lest thou become exceedingly careless at a time when great care is necessary to thy well-being.

4. My son, obey the law and observe prudence. Spin thou not lower than 1500 cubits nor stunt above thine own domicile. For the hand of the law is heavy and reacheth far and wide throughout the land.

5. Incur not the wrath of thy Commander by breaking the rules; for he who maketh right-hand circuits shall be cast out into utter darkness.

6. Let not thy prowess in the air persuade thee that others cannot do even as thou doest; for he that showeth off in public places is an abomination unto his fellow pilots.

7. More praiseworthy is he who can touch tail-skid and wheels to earth at one time, than he who loopeth and rolleth till some damsel stares in amazement at his daring.

8. He who breaketh an undercarriage in a forced landing may, in time, be forgiven, but he who taxieth into another aircraft shall be despised forever.

9. Beware the man who taketh off without looking behind him, for there is no health in him verily, I say unto you, his days are numbered.

10. Clever men take the reproofs of their instructors in the same wise, one like unto another: with witty jest, confessing their dumbness and regarding themselves with humour. Yet they try again, profiting by his wise counsel and taking not offence at aught that has been said.

11. As a postage stamp which lacketh glue, so are the words of caution to a fool; they stick not, going in one ear and out the other, for there is nothing between to stop them.

12. My son, hearken unto my teaching and forsake not the laws of prudence, for the reckless shall not inhabit the earth for long.

13. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not; thus wilt thou fly safely; length of days and a life of peace shall be added unto thee.

The next piece is one that I’ve had in my head longer than I care to remember. It’s by Monty Python, although no doubt afficionados will have their own ideas about whose writing style it best reflects. It’s a cautionary tale about the origins of a delicacy.

Horace Poem

Much to his Mum and Dad’s dismay
Horace ate himself one day
He didn’t stop to say his grace
He just sat down and ate his face
“We can’t have this!” his dad declared
“If that’s lad’s ate, he should be shared”
But even as he spoke they saw
Horace eating more and more
First his legs and then his thighs
His arms, his nose, his hair, his eyes…
“Stop him someone!” Mother cried
“Those eyeballs would be better fried!”
But all too late, for they were gone
And he had started on his dong
“Oh! Foolish child!” the father mourns
“You could have deep-fried that with prawns,
Some parsley and some tartare sauce…”
But H. was on his second course:
His liver and his lights and lung,
His ears, his neck, his chin, his tongue;
“To think I raised him from the cot
And now he’s going to scoff the lot!”
His mother cried: “What shall we do?
What’s left won’t even make a stew…”
And as she wept, her son was seen
To eat his head, his heart, his spleen,
And there he lay, a boy no more,
Just a stomach on the floor…
None the less, since it was his
They ate it-That’s what haggis is!

The conversation in this poem is conducted in Devonshire dialect, so apologies in advance to anyone who’s completely mystified by it. The poem’s by William Weeks.

The Better Plan

Young Tom, the farmer’s man, one night
Was going down the lane,
Candle and lantern in his hand,
To meet his Mary Jane.

Now, as it happen’d, farmer Giles
Was coming up the lane,
And meeting Tom with his lantern asked:
“Why, Tom, where be ‘ee gwain?”

Tom, looking sheepish, answered “Zur,
Sure you knaw where I’m gwain –
” ‘Tis courtin’ night an’ I’m jist off
To meet my Mary Jane.”

“But take a lantern courtin’, Tom!
You be a quare young spark!
I always thort that soort o’ thing
Was better in the dark.”

“Wull, maister, I ‘ave always yerd
‘Tis var the safest plan
To thraw some light ‘pon anything
That you may take in ‘an’.”

“Fudge! I’d no light to court my wive
When ‘er was Nancy Ridd.”
Sez Tom: “To jidge by the looks o’ ‘er, zur,
I shouldn’ think you did!”

Perhaps this one by John Davidson is a little more serious than the others, but you can’t live in these parts without thinking of boats from time to time. It’s a good poem for travellers too. You know who you are.


The boat is chafing at our long delay,
And we must leave too soon
The spicy sea-pinks and the inborne spray,
The tawny sands, the moon.

Keep us, O Thetis, in our western flight!
Watch from thy pearly throne
Our vessel, plunging deeper into night
To reach a land unknown.

Finally a poem by Clem Marten written entirely in Devon dialect. I c’n unnerstan’ ‘er, zo you ort t’ave ‘ardly no bother.

Oh t’be a Blackburd

I zeed a liddle blackburd
A-zettin’ een a tree,
A purty liddle blackburd,
Za ‘ansome az c’n be.

E wear’d a shiney black co-at,
A-glissenin een th’ zun,
Jiy-vule zong vrum black drot,
Jiy-vule it were zung.

Zing a zong t’laady-love,
A zong ov jiy an mirth,
All be well een ‘eaven above
An all be well on earth.

Ef I cud be a blackburd,
A-zettin een a tree.
Wi all God’s gifts aroun me
Oh, ow ‘appy I wud be!

That’s it for this week. Maybe now that the poetry slot is out of the way, though, I can actually put something else up later in the week. Hope springs eternal, as they say.