The Three Ravens


Two ole duffers landed at a forgotten church-yard;
to set-up tea things upon a big level tombstone —
out touring for Sunday afternoon when late flowers
still bloomed, grass grew everywhere and leaves above
seen as green and full…
“Bring out the stove, the pan and two cups; it’s all there
in the back-seats, from last time”…
It was musty and quiet, dark and cool – what they wanted
or needed, deserved or forgot about. They at the middle
of things, filled with confusing memories and dim promises.
Suddenly one of them stood-up tall and serious – to recite
lines on another graveyard, the first stanzas of ‘Gray’s elegy’
— while the other went silent holding tight onto his tea —
because it was the apex of something – a celebration or
a prayer, an anthem or a hymn…
The elegy was a tissue of allusions from Milton and Shakespeare;
the men empty vessels mostly; a cemetery as lost
enclosure, small grotto or vacant theatre.
“We have to come back again”.
“Bring the full printed poem, next time”.
By then their cups were empty, happy talk fizzled-out and
confounding memories returned, promises and such were
still out-of-reach.
“We must learn more about this elegy”.
“And more of Thomas Gray – to save us from the ravens, the
crows, or from ourselves”.
Three big black birds up in the trees, amongst darkening branches,
find a limb above the men — to see them and hear, to be near…
“It’s late now, it’s very late to think of the two ballads we got from
Scotland and from England”.
Twilight fades behind the church silhouette, while massing clouds
together with fullest tree cover, draw down the night’s curtain…
“But which version is more convincing, d’you think”?


N.B. ‘The three ravens’ is an old English ballad, meant to be sung
and much like the old Scottish ballad, ‘Twa Corbies’. Except here
the knight’s body is protected from predators and ravens are a
bigger version of crows…

The Three Ravens
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