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...)


  1. Oh what great imagery! I did a bit of searching too, you may have already found this, but (you'll be pleased to hear) it was written apparently by the Bishop of Hereford - found it here

  2. I got the impression that it was written as a riposte to the Bish, who'd been fulminating against the eveil that is cider! Damn, well done on finding that- I'd searched and failed to find it, so laboriously transcribed it from the audio. Hence the paucity of line breaks.

    I was reciting Houseman in my head one afternoon as I was bimbling through Shropshire on my motorbike (heading to Lancashire for a funeral). I'd just got to the bit about "Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun / Are the quietest places under the sun" ...when the gearbox output shaft bearing failed, and things got very noisy all of a sudden. But it was a nice afternoon for breaking down. And a nice place to do it.

  3. Dru is correct. Knox was editor of Punch at the time and lived in Herefordshire.