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Poetry Corner October 2022

The evenings are drawing in and the trees are giving us their annual display of autumnal hues so it must be Harvest Festival time. Church flower arrangements reflect the bounteous season and the their generous collections donated for distribution to the needy and I am reminded of this poem (“Diary of a church mouse” by Sir John Betjemen) - as ever, a wry observation of the (Christian) human condition.

Here among the long-discarded cassocks,

Damp stools and half split-open hassocks,

Here where the vicar never looks

I nibble through old service books.

Lean and alone I spend my days

Behind this Church of England baize

I share my dark forgotten room

With two oil-lamps and half a broom.

The cleaner never bothers me,

So here I eat my frugal tea.

My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;

My jam is polish for the floor.

Christmas and Easter may be feasts

For congregations and for priests,

And so may Whitsun. All the same,

They do not fill my meagre frame.

For me the only feast at all

Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,

When I can satisfy my want

With ears of corn around the font.

I climb the eagle’s brazen head

To burrow through a loaf of bread.

I scramble up the pulpit stair

And gnaw the marrows hanging there.

It is enjoyable to taste

These items 'ere they go to waste,

But how annoying when one finds

That other mice with pagan minds

Come into church my food to share

Who have no proper business there.

Two field mice who have no desire

To be baptized, invade the choir.

A large and most unfriendly rat

Comes in to see what we are at.

He says he thinks there is no God

And yet he comes … it’s rather odd.

This year he stole a sheaf of wheat

(It screened our special preacher’s seat),

And prosperous mice from fields away)

Come in to hear our organ play,

And under cover of its notes

Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.

A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I

Am too papistical and High,

Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong

To munch through Harvest Evensong

While I who starve the whole year through

Must share my food with rodents who

Except at this time of the year

Not once inside the church appear.

Within the human world I know

Such going on could not be so,

For human beings only do

What their religion tells them to.

They read the Bible every day

And always, night and morning, pray,

And just like me, the good church mouse,

Worship each week in God’s own house,

But all the same it’s strange to me

How very full the church can be

With people I don’t see at all

Except at Harvest Festival.

- Submitted by Gill Gibson-Piggot, WFWI Trustee


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