The Mulberry Tree


‘Good neighbour Michael Drayton, and you, Old Ben
Stepped up from London to our Warwickshire –
The air is balmy, so we’ll drink tonight
under my mulberry tree, and hear the chimes.’

But English April’s treacherous. Good ale and wine,
However generous they boast themselves,
Lower the temperature. The lurking microbe
Is everywhere, and waiting for its chance.

Death’s always bitter – and pneumonia,
Though not the worst, isn’t a cosy end.
But this, at least, was after a good party –
Drinking with friends. And who wouldn’t like to have been
A caterpillar among those mulberry leaves,
To catch some of the talk that drifted upwards,
And pass it on when one had turned a moth.

From Collected Poems (Carcanet, 1988), copyright © John Heath-Stubbs 1988, used by permission of the author.

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