08 May 2014

The Winchcombe Morris side of yore

The Silk Mill Lane twins uptown streets in straight and north-east flow,
along the Isbourne as she streams by tall trees in a row,
and daisies sunning on moss banks whence country gardens grow,
whose rose-scent breezes bear the tunes of blackbird, robin, crow.

Yet listen closer as ye pass twixt town and river trails,
for something stirs from yesteryear beneath the way to Hailes,
the whirr of weaving, warning cries, a young girl’s screams and wails,
then louder still, the Morris men, a noise to scatter quails.

Cart House Below, the build of old to host this splendid thrum,
with Major on melodeon and Andrews on the drum,
then Randall on the triangle while others clap and hum,
in readiness for summer, when the finest dancers come.

All flocked to Abbey Terrace on the Whitsun holiday,
competing with near townsfolk in spectacular display,
bells pealing fit to blow the ears and make ye sing and sway,
the Winchcombe Morris side of yore that met down Silk Mill way.

* * *

This poem was my way of thanking Happenstance for the P-i-R invitation. I made a card and presented it to Cressida on 15th February at the Cheltenham Folk Festival 2014.

The poem’s subtitle is, ‘after Winchcombe Calvacade, by Eleanor Adlard’, and the subtitle of the Calvacade is, or sidelights on Winchcombe history. I don’t own a copy of the book, but I was able to access some useful information online, at http://www.folklife-west.co.uk/J3-winchc.pdf (page 2, ‘An Account of the Winchcombe Morris’). Unfortunately, the ‘excellent programme on Winchcombe Morris’ was unavailable. (Mr T. gets everywhere!)

The journal’s mention of Silk Mill Lane stirred memories of proofreading the script of ‘Steps Through Time’ in January 2013 (http://www.fostpw.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=9&Itemid=13) for (of course!) Mr T. In Act 2, Scene 3 two main characters discuss the mill, including the dangers involved in working there: ‘one little girl got caught in the wheels and was carried round the machinery’, hence the ‘screams and wails’ in my second verse.

‘The Winchcombe Morris side of yore’ is a fourteener, a poem in which each line contains 14 syllables. I didn’t know the proper term until just now, when I googled ‘fourteen syllable verse’! It’s also known as iambic heptameter (seven stresses per line), though when I listen to my fourteeners I hear a pause at the end of each line. That results in eight beats per line, which feels more musical to me.


The voice that came to mind for this poem is a rich Gloucestershire accent, with a bit of a chuckle after quails.


<(:-)