Sunday, 8 July 2012

Hell in Herefordshire


Hell in Herefordshire

The wild white rose is cankered
Along the vale of Lugg;
There is poison in the tankard; 
There is murder in the mug.
Through all the pleasant valley
Where stand the pale-faced kine,
Men raise the Devil's chalice
And drink this bitter wine.

Unspeakable carouses
That shame the summer sky
Take place in little houses
That look towards the Wye.
And near the Radnor border
And the dark hills of Wales,
Beelzebub is warder,
And sorcery prevails.

For, spite of Church and chapel,
Ungodly folk there be
Who pluck the cider apple
From the cider apple tree,
And squeeze it in their presses
Until the juice runs out,
At various addresses
That no-one knows about.

And, maddened by the orgies
Of that ungodly brew,
They slit each others' gorges
From one a.m. till two,
Till Ledbury is in shambles,
And in the dirt and mud
Where Leominster sits and gambles,
The dice are stained with blood.

But still, if strength suffices,
Before the day is done,
I'll go and share the vices
Of Clungunford and Clun
But watch the red sun sinking
Across the March again,
And join the secret drinking
Of outlaws at Presteigne.

E.V. Knox

(I heard this on Poetry Please, and couldn't find it on line, so here it is transcribed from the broadcast...)