Bearing Arms

Bearing Arms

No longer do the heralds appear
with fanfares at the gates
on their infrequent visitations
to cold, northern manors.

They came every few generations
across the Tees, hawking noble phlegm
into the mist – braving the kine-clagged
yards of armigerous yeomen.

Having supped, enquiries were made:
‘Who was the first born son
of your grandfather?
Did he leave legitimate issue?

Only maids you say? Then,
we have to declare the line extinct,
the ancient blazon ended – except
under certain circumstances’.

Afterwards – in the rain outside –
the descendants of Oswy’s warriors
lean upon their mattocks and gawp
with tamed eyes

at the gorgeous, glutted cavalcade
that clips and clops its way down the hill.
A bent old man grunts: ‘me grandfetha used to tell
aboot last time yon crowd ganged this road’.

Harry Nicholson
revised 2011


6 Responses to Bearing Arms

  1. Average Poet says:

    There’s an ancient feel to this, it seems like a prelude to a great story. Love the dialect at the end.

  2. Kim Nelson says:

    Ah Henry… this one makes me ever more grateful that, as a woman, I live now and not then! You do the topic justice. You weave a lovely, albeit accurately violent, tale.

  3. Sara V says:

    I love this! Took me back to those ancient times, could almost hear the saddles creak–loved that line “hawking noble phlegm” clever humor

  4. Hello Mike – A bit of reading and a degree of respect for the old words still around when I was younger.

  5. Mike Patrick says:

    Marvelous, Harry. I wish I had the background to write in dialect from history.

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