A man there was, a gentle soul,
Of mild enquiring mind,
Who came into this neighbourhood
Its wonders for to find.

He sought for vines on Viney Hill.
He wondered much to find
That Drybrook was reverse of dry
It so perplexed his mind

That every man he chanced to meet
He’d stop to question: and
Was answered courteously and fairly
By all within this land.

They told him who had put the lid
On Lydney; who the ale
Misspelt in Aylburton. And he
Delighted in the tale.

And still, like little Oliver,
He softly asked for more;
And with the utmost courtesy
Was answered as before;

Until one sleepy Summer’s eve
He came all unaware
Unto a place called Ruardean,
And asked “Who killed the bear?”

Then men arose and knocked him flat.
Another punched his head.
And when the rest had done with him,
Our gentle friend was dead.

The moral of this simple tale
Is plain. Dear friend, beware!
If you should visit Ruardean
Mention of any bear.

If you should visit Yorkley Slad
Pause not to question why
They put a pig upon a wall
To see the band go by

And if your feet so far should stray
As Dymock, lest some hurt
Befall you, make no mention of
The man without a shirt.

Nine lives have cats, and you but one:
Risk not that gift of God!
It’s better to be ignorant
Than dead beneath the sod.

From F W Harvey: Selected Poems (Douglas McLean Publishing, 2011), © The Estate of F W Harvey 2011, used by permission of the F W Harvey Society for the Estate of the author, and the publishers. Recording © The Estate of F W Harvey 2011, used by permission of Douglas McLean Publishing and the BBC.

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