The Lepidopterist's Tragedy
An original poem by Richard Jones, in the vein of Thomas Hardy
From Winyards Gap the livelong day
The livelong day
We beat afoot the Northward way
We had travelled times before.
The sunblaze burning on our backs
Our shoulders sticking to our packs
By Fosseway fields and turnpike tracks
We skirted sad Sedgemoor.
Full twenty miles we hunted on
We hunted on
Yet never glut our eye upon
The rarest butterfly.
But as the sun drew down to west
We climbed the toilsome Polden crest
And saw of landskip sights the best
The inn that gleamed nearby.
We ducked the porch pushed hard the door
Pushed hard the door
'Tween low ceiling and rough flagged floor
An old man sat alone.
He slow snuffed out the candle flame
The sun's rays caught a silken skein
Beckoning smoke through a cracked pane.
He coughed with dusty tone.
"Oh look those green remembered hills
Are dying and my pulse faint stills
We just don't look the same.
Like when that lost boys feet did tread
Fair flowery slopes to clouds that lead
Toward a full-grown sun fired red,
As when young Tom first came.
Down there did the Ash copse bright blow
Ash copse bright blow
Now slimy stumps a grave shadow
Black as this inglenook.
These hills were never fit for plough
Then poison pumped full to the brow
It's only me lives up here now,
And I just sit and look.
The Bee Orchid, I was beguiled
I was beguiled
And fields of geese from Northlands wild
Where icy air ascends.
I'd show you where the Sallow swayed
Goldcrests gathered in pines and played
Threading needles of light through shade
Yes, they were all my friends."
He stood and pointed straight away
Pointed straight away
From the window framed dying day
A dust devil arose.
"Autumn's rains had washed out the earth
Flooding floods with the after birth
The history of lost lives worth
And then all-time froze.
Two months gripped in the jaws of a vice
Jaws of a vice
Then the sun appeared, paradise
Bad times were forgotten.
The heat grew higher every day
Dry baked the soil by mid of May
And there you saw it sucked away
Leaving roots a rotten!
The goodness gone no thistle grows
No thistle grows
To flower, feed, seed where wind blows
No Goldfinches no Bees.
The fluid rainsong's never heard
Full fluted from the wood's Blackbird
And even dusk's Rooks, not one word
Echoes through the bare trees"
"We seek out the rare Butterfly
But just a Meadow Brown blew by
On no bloom alighted.
A male Large Blue was last here seen
This very same week in 2019
Nectaring the sweetest scene!" I beam.
His worn eyes ignited.
"Flying sparks of electric blue
Clouds of them up and flew
From the cushioned Thyme.
What tragedy has happened here
That made such beauty disappear
A pall be-drapes decay hangs drear
Whose guilty of this crime?"
He looked at me accusingly
"You're from the Twentieth century
And have blood on one hand.
Grab the ground, plant our green flag furled
Lies and greed spin this planet pearled
But the real world's the natural world
Truth's spoken by the land!
Add you voice to earth's rising chant
Earth's rising chant
Do what the politicians can't
Yes, you the outsider."
Opening the cupboard dull with mould
He fetched us gleaming liquid gold
We shared the last harvest of cold
Sweet Somerset cider.