save Jeremy from
(John Noakes with Shep. No known free use, but
unknown author/ copyright owner; low resolution image
and portrayed deceased as 28/5/17)
you were one of those blokes
who could work with children AND animals; whose renown
was immortalised by your catchphrase: ‘Shep, get down!‘
(I use the Medieval pronunciation- something like ‘Fridesweedah’)
(window by Burne-Jones- Christ Church, Oxford)
After her mother’s death, she, with Aelfgith
(a holy woman) lodged. Then to Oxford,
to ask her father to build her, forthwith,
a church and convent, where she could board
with twelve other women and take the veil,
in seclusion, and do works of charity.
Her beauty would always attract a male.
Prince Aelfgar would see no disparity
in seeking to attain, through compulsion.
one who was devoted to freely love
all, but who would simply feel revulsion
at sabotage of her call from above.
Discovering his scheme, she fled to a hut,
which sheltered swine, who foraged in the wood.
With well water, she survived three years, but
Aelfgar, furious at her hardihood,
was determined to sustain his assault.
When she returned to Oxford, he made threats
that he would torch the town – all for her ‘fault’ –
and have her ravished by his own subjects.
Frideswide prayed to St Catherine,
to Cecilia, for preservation.
Immediately, the prince was supine:
struck blind, in response to invocation.
English kings feared to enter, from then on,
the city, lest they a similar fate
would be dispensed- the same phenomenon
assail them, if they tried to storm the gate.
The nunnery then received the princess
and she established a seat of learning,
treating loathsome lepers with a largesse
beyond the call of duty, meriting
sainthood; eventual burial, where now
Christ Church Cathedral stands. Pilgrims flock still
to honour the abbess, whose sacred vow
identified her union with God’s will.
(As for Prince Aelfgar, she restored his sight
and, at her well, a toad would often spit
at a base suitor, whose credentials might
not meet his intended’s family’s ambit.
The nineteenth of October- her Feast Day-
is thought to be the date she passed away.)
(Samson Fighting the Lion: Lucas Cranach
the Elder ; Weimarer Stadtschloss;
Accession No G12)
Manoah wept: he had no son.
An angel told his wife:
You will conceive a son and give
him up to God for life.
This angel came again and he
had piercing azure eyes.
Manoah, liking what he said,
offered to sacrifice
a kid to God and, in the smoke,
the spirit heavenwards
ascended, while the man and wife
pondered on his words.
Samson grew in stature tall;
a razor did not trim
his hair, as he was set aside:
the role of Judge, for him.
A daughter of his enemies
came to his notice, so,
in spite of what his father said,
to Timnath he would go.
Meeting a lion would not prevent
his marriage to a stranger.
He tore the animal apart
(its threat to him no danger.)
And, when he passed the carcase next,
bees had filled its middle.
Scooping out honey, he laughed aloud:
Aha! I have a riddle!
Thirty young men attended the feast.
What is strong, but also sweet?
He bet they’d never work it out,
but Samson’s wife was not discreet.
The answer, pressured out of her,
Samson lost the forfeit,
but he went down to Ashkelon
and found a way to cheat:
he offered the thirty all the fruits
he’d pillaged, far and wide.
Father-in-law was unimpressed
and gave away the bride.
Please let me sleep with her, Sam cried,
but ‘father-in-law’ rejected
his overtures and offered up
Raging, Samson stormed to the fields,
fiery foxes tying
by their tails, igniting corn,
until the crops were dying.
The Philistines burned Samson’s ‘wife’
He took the jawbone of an ass;
displayed his indignation.
Twenty years passed and he
the role of Judge enacted,
but, like a moth to candle flames,
was fatally attracted
to a harlot (spied upon) –
a honey trap, or bait.
Gazites lay in wait for him.
He made off with the gate
and posts, which held the city wall.
He carried them to Hebron.
Enough of whores: he fell in love,
exhibiting his brawn,
but not his brain. Delilah (bribed)
to find his secret strength,
determined, showing greed and pique,
to go to any length
until he was unwise and told
how he eschewed a razor.
And, when his hair was shorn away,
his weakness did amaze her.
The Spirit of the Lord had left
and Samson, unaware,
had eyes gouged out; was bound with chains
now that he’d lost his hair.
A trophy, he would grind the corn,
till Dagon’s feast came round
and then, for sport, they hauled him out-
still bloodied, beaten, bound.
Two pillars served as a support,
to lean against the stone,
but hair had grown; his strength returned –
he gave a mighty groan.
O let me die with Philistines,
he prayed. Thy will be done.
He brought the house down literally
and killed them – every one.
They buried him beside Manoah.
A Deliverer he’d become,
achieving more in death than life,
foreshadowing God’s son.
(Pietro Lorenzetti, Assisi fresco: San Francesco S Transept
So, if you are challenged about the ass,
just say ‘ The Lord hath need of it,’ He said.
I’m coming to them as a different king,
envisaging another kind of rule.
My humble steed will show them that the meek
will ultimately rule over the earth.
The disciples obeyed, but ‘What on earth
is He doing?’ they questioned. ‘A dumb ass!’
We hope its owner, when he’s asked, is meek;
remembers once upon a time, he said
he’d lend Him it. For Friendship’s golden rule
is not to lend, unless it’s to a king.
Growing crowds cried: ‘Hosanna to the King!’
‘Blessed be He who comes down to our Earth
in the name of the Lord. O, let Him rule
We recall Balaam and his talking ass.
What miracle will there be next?’ They said:
‘It’s strange a Messiah should look so meek.’
The Pharisees were anything but meek;
were unimpressed by any kind of king.
‘The world has gone after Him!’ they all said.
‘They think their Saviour has come down to Earth.
Well, they are all simple peasants. His ass
may well understand more of Roman rule.
This upstart seems to break every rule;
He affects to be quite harmless and meek.
We recognise reference to an ass
and how, sitting on a colt, Sion’s king
will come. He’s announcing His reign on Earth.
We don’t like this Hosanna! stuff,’ they said.
‘Master, rebuke your disciples!‘ they said.
‘Who do you think you are that you should rule
over us? We’ll teach you how to be meek.
Apart from Caesar, there isn’t a king.
Anyone who disagrees is an ass.
But the people cast cloaks before the ass,
acknowledging Christ’s rule; hailing Him King
and said: May this meek one rule forever!
( Pygmalion at the Temple of Venus: Christine de Pizan
Epitre d’Othea; Kononklijke Bibliotheek KB 74 G27 fol 25
your animal’s turds
‘ere you speak.