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Posted 12-21-2010 at 03:40 PM by Steve Bucknell
In honour of the winter solstice and the lunar eclipse, (unseen but very strange pink/red hues in the dawn sky) this thirteenth century poem from the anthology Medieval English Lyrics edited by R.T.Davies Faber and Faber.1963.
The prose version is my own guesswork.

The Man in the Moon

Mon in the mone stond and strit;
On his bot-forke his burthen he bereth.
It is muche wonder that he na down slit—
For doute leste he falle he shoddreth and shereth.
When the forst freseth muche chele he bid.
The thornes beth kene, his hattren to-terreth.
Nis no with in the world than wot when he sit,
Ne, bote it be the hedge, whet wedes he wereth.

Whider trowe this mon ha the wey take?
He hath set his o fot his other toforen.
For non hihte that he hath ne siht me him ner shake:
He is the slowest mon that ever wes iboren.
Wher he were o the field pitchinde stake,
For hope of his thornes to dutten his doren,
He mot mid his twibil other trous make,
Other all his days werk ther were iloren.

This ilke mon upon heh whener he were,
Wher he were i the mone boren and ifed,
He leneth on his fork ase a grey frere:
This crokede cainard sore he is adred.
It is mony day go that he was here.
Ichot of his ernde he nath nout isped.
He hath hewe sumwher a burthen of brere,
Therefore sum Hayward hath taken his wed.

Yef thy wed is itake, bring home the trous,
Sete forth thine other fot, strid over sty.
We shule preye the Hayward hom to our hous,
And maken him at eise for the maistry,
Drinke to him derly of full god bous,
And our dame douse shall sitten him by.
When that he is dronke ase a dreint mous,
Thenne we schule borewe the wed ate baaily.

This mon hereth me nout, thah ich to him crye:
Ichot the cherl is def—the Del him to-drawe!
Thah ich yeye upon heh, nulle nout hye:
The lostlase ladde con nout o lawe.
Hupe forth! Hubert, hosede pie.
Ichot th’art amarscled into the mawe.
Thah me tene with him that mine teth mye,
The cherl nul nout adown er the day dawe.

The man in the moon stands and strides; he bears his burden on his fork. It is a great wonder that he doesn’t slip down—for fear of falling he trembles and veers. When the frost freezes he endures much cold. The thorns are keen, his clothes are torn. Nobody knows when he sits , unless its in the hedge ,or what clothes he wears.

Where do you think this man is going? He puts one foot in front of the other. Nothing sweats him or shakes him. He is the slowest man that was ever born. He is in the field planting stakes and fixing the gaps in his thorn hedge with his billhook so that his days of work won’t be lost.

This same man is always with us : born and fed by the moon. He leans on his fork like a grey ghost: a crooked pilgrim of trepidation . Days ago on his errands he cut a bundle of thorns which a keeper of hedges took from him as due payment.

With the payment taken bring home the bundles, set your best foot forward, and stride over the earth. We invite that hedge-keeper into our home, put him at ease, ply him with drink and sit our sweet wife beside him. When he is drunk as a very drunk harvest mouse then we shall take back what he took.

This moon doesn’t hear, though I shout at him. If the fellow is deaf, then to the devil with him! Though I cry out he takes no notice. That high lazy chap hears no command. Jump up magpie Hubert, be black or white. I know you are slowly eaten by the empty sky. I can test you between my teeth as you come down with the dawn.
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    Steve Bucknell's Avatar
    The Man in the Moon

    The moon contains a crooked man;
    Shrimpwise on silver is he curled.
    He fries a pikelet in a pan
    In full view of the watching world,

    Upon a curious stove, whose smoke
    Casts over him a curious shade.
    His name is Littleton-on-Coke;
    He is a plasterer by trade.

    He stays upon the moon by choice
    And rarely travels to and fro;
    He does not like the human voice.
    He lived in Bacup, long ago.

    And shall we send our great machines
    To discompose this worthy man,
    To smash his stove to smithereens
    And spill the pikelets from his pan?

    Shall we send instruments of war,
    Propelled by jets of jungle-juice,
    To batter rudely on the door
    Of his noctivagant caboose?

    It would be impolite, my friends,
    To broach, as if he were a cask,
    This man from Bacup, as he bends
    Tirelessly to his tedious task.

    R.P.Lister. from The Albatross. 1986. Pauline Dorricott Books. (originally published in Punch.)

    And a find from the great novelist Iris Murdoch:


    When the dark hawberries hang down and drip like blood
    And the old man’s beard has climbed high in the wood
    And the golden bracken has been broken by the snows
    And Jesus Christ has come again to heal and pardon,
    Then the little robin follows me through the garden,
    In the dark days his breast is like a rose.

    Iris Murdoch (1919—99)

    From ‘A Year of Birds’ (1933)
    Posted 12-25-2010 at 02:31 PM by Steve Bucknell Steve Bucknell is offline
    Updated 01-18-2011 at 02:35 PM by Steve Bucknell

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