The Lepidopterist’s Tragedy

by Richard Jones, UKLepidopertists

From Wynyards Gap 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
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
T'ween 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
They just don’t look the same.
As when this lost boy's feet did tread
Full flowery slopes to clouds that lead
Towards a soft sun, ripening red
Like when young Tom first came.
Down there did the Ash copse bright blow,
Now slimy stumps a grave shadow
Black as this inglenook.
These hills were never fit for plough
Pumped with poison full to the brow
It’s only me lives up here now.
And I just sit and look.
The Bee Orchid, I was beguiled,
And fields of geese from Northlands wild
Where icy air ascends.
I’d show you where the Sorrels swayed
Goldcrests gathered in pines and played
Threading needles of light in shade.
Yes, they were all my friends."
He stood and 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
Then the sun appeared, paradise
Bad times were forgotten.
The heat grew taller 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
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 Twenty Nineteen,
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 your hand.
Grab the ground plant our green flag furled,
Lies and greed spin this planet pearled
But the real world’s the natural world
The truth’s told by the land!
Add you voice to 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 harvest of cold,
Sweet Somerset cider.

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