The Elegy is dedicated to a rather cheeky pied wagtail whose midge-catching
acrobatics made me laugh so much that I forgot that I was feeling depressed.
Sadly, some weeks later, I found him floating lifeless in Semerwater
close to the spot where we had first met.
I knew I had lost a friend.
Wet feathers straggled on the lake
Close to the shore, where water laps
In a slow, bobbing trance -
Like parody of living dance;
A cruel twist, too hard for me to take.
For I recall your wagging tail,
In black and white, your comic stance,
Your call "Hi look! It's me!
Roll up my friends! Roll up! It's free!
But please leave any bread that may be stale."
How many laughs did you inspire
In that parked-car audience,
Who came just for a change
Of scene and found instead a strange,
Pied, dancing bird fulfilling their desire
To shake off the dull work-day grind?
They saw how you enjoyed the role
They wished they could have had,
In place of the humdrum, pale, sad
Reality they tried to leave behind.
And when they pack car boots to go,
Reflecting on bright images
Of crystal lakes, clear skies,
A few might even realise
You gave them so much more, old pierrot.
For all the pleasure they would find
In that lakeside tranquility,
Would, nontheless, not lift them clear
Of work-day worry, doubt and fear,
As did your laughter bubbling through the mind.
No doubt we'll have the dance next year,
Performed by brother, cousin, son,
And picnickers will love the show;
You'll not be missed, but I shall know,
And in my laughter there may be a tear.
Photograph by Kevin Law
Photograph by Tony Hisgett