Unforgiven – An Epigram, 1955

A little epigram by Colin Ellis that amused me from The Weekend Book, 1955 edition (but written in the 1930s):

A little digging reveals there was a companion epigram:

Unforgivable
With Peter I refuse to dine:
His jokes are older than his wine.

Colin Ellis had one of those properly varied, illustrious lives that people used to have – he was a poet in his youth, but went on to become Director of Home-Grown Cereals at the Ministry of Food during the Second World War, held various public offices in Leicestershire, was a historian and archeologist, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and an author.

Apparently a Leicestershire man to the core, I rather enjoy another of his poems on the subject, from 1932 – Living in the Midlands. I might have been born 80 years later than Mr Ellis, but I still recognise this bucolic nostalgia (although in my case, it’s for the farms, orchards and oast houses of Kent and my girlhood).

Living in the Midlands

When men offer thanks for the bounties
That they in their boyhood have known
When poets are praising their counties
What ought I to say of my own?

Its highways are crowded with lorries
And buses encumber its lanes;
Its hills are used chiefly as quarries,
Its rivers used chiefly as drains.

The country is all over-ridden
By townsmen, ill-mannered and proud
And beauty, unless it is hidden
Is trampled to death by the crowd

Disforested, featureless, faded-
Describe me a place if you can
Where Man was by Nature less aided
Or Nature less aided by Man.

And yet though I keep in subjection
My heart, as a rule, to my head,
I still feel a sneaking affection
For ___________*, where I was bred.

For still, here and there, is a village,
Where factories have not been planned,
There still are some acres of tillage,
Some old men still work on the land.

And how can I help but remember
The Midsummer meadows of hay,
The stubbles dew-drenched in September,
The buttercups golden in May?

For we who seek out and discover
The charms of my county can be
As proud as a plain woman’s lover
Of beauties the world does not see.

*Shall we say “Middleshire”? (Author’s note)

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