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’.