Monday, March 01, 2010

I Just Like This

It's a fairly well known truth that I'm a filthy unbeliever, one of those atheist types who has learned through quite hard study that there actually isn't a point or a purpose and that we as a species are all alone. And, yes - I've read the holy books of several major religions in the vain hope that there might be something that actually made sense.

This complete lack of belief needn't make anyone either unhappy, anarchistic, selfish, undisciplined or uncaring: just get on with the life that we have and enjoy it for what it is.

All of which brings me to a poem that, despite what I've just written above, I've always rather liked. In the absence of anything of substance to say about Millbrook life (as life currently consists of line learning, prop collection and emailing in connection with the forthcoming production), I'm going to plonk Charles Causley's (pictured below) Ballad of the Bread Man onto the pages.

It's deceptively simple poem - some might call it doggerel with it's basic tum-te-tum-te-tum-te-tum rhythm and child-like rhyme scheme; I think it's a work of some genius with a beautifully downbeat ending that we can all recognise. What's more Causley was a Cornishman (born in Launceston where he spent most of his life) - huzzah!

Sadly, the hosting site for this blog is playing annoying whatnots and simply won't let me divide the poem into its proper 4 line stanzas; every time I lay it out correctly it publishes in several blocks of more than four lines... so the layout's a bit wonky - ah, well, it's still eminently readable...

So, make of it what you will -

The Ballad of the Bread Man
Mary stood in the kitchen
Baking a loaf of bread.
An angel flew in the window
‘We’ve a job for you,’ he said.

‘God in his big gold heaven
Sitting in his big blue chair,
Wanted a mother for his little son.
Suddenly saw you there.’
Mary shook and trembled,
‘It isn’t true what you say.’
‘Don’t say that,’ said the angel.
‘The baby’s on its way.’

Joseph was in the workshop
Planing a piece of wood.
‘The old man’s past it,’ the neighbours said.
‘That girls been up to no good.’
‘And who was that elegant fellow,’
They said. ‘in the shiny gear?’
The things they said about Gabriel
Were hardly fit to hear.
Mary never answered,
Mary never replied.
She kept the information,
Like the baby, safe inside.
It was the election winter.
They went to vote in the town.
When Mary found her time had come
The hotels let her down.
The baby was born in an annexe
Next to the local pub.
At midnight, a delegation
Turned up from the Farmers’ club.
They talked about an explosion
That made a hole on the sky,
Said they’d been sent to the Lamb and Flag
To see God come down from on high.

A few days later a bishop
And a five-star general were seen
With the head of an African country
In a bullet-proof limousine.

‘We’ve come,’ they said ‘with tokens
For the little boy to choose.’
Told the tale about war and peace
In the television news.

After them came the soldiers
With rifle and bombs and gun,
Looking for enemies of the state.
The family had packed up and gone.

When they got back to the village
The neighbours said, to a man,
‘That boy will never be one of us,
Though he does what he blessed well can.’

He went round to all the people
A paper crown on his head.
Here is some bread from my father.
Take, eat, he said.

Nobody seemed very hungry.
Nobody seemed to care.
Nobody saw the god in himself
Quietly standing there.

He finished up in the papers.
He came to a very bad end.
He was charged with bringing the living to life.
No man was that prisoner’s friend.

There’s only one kind of punishment
To fit that kind of crime.
They rigged a trial and shot him dead.
They were only just in time.

They lifted the young man by the leg,
They lifted him by the arm,
They locked him in a cathedral
In case he came to harm.

They stored him safe as water
Under seven rocks.
One Sunday morning he burst out
Like a jack-in-the-box.

Through the town he went walking.
He showed them the holes in his head.
Now do you want any loaves? He cried.
‘Not today’ they said.

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