Page 40 - catalogue 230117
P. 40
3. Wagtail and Baby
From Time's Laughingstocks – published 1090

A baby watched a ford, whereto
A wagtail came for drinking;

A blaring bull went wading through,
The wagtail showed no shrinking.

A stallion splashed his way across,
The birdie nearly sinking;

He gave his plumes a twitch and toss,
And held his own unblinking.

Next saw the baby round the spot
A mongrel slowly slinking;

The wagtail gazed, but faltered not
In dip and sip and prinking.

A perfect gentleman then neared;
The wagtail, in a winking,

With terror rose and disappeared;
The baby fell a-thinking.

The engraver's own home in Cumbria at the time of the engraving was
approached via a ford to which the wagtails frequently came to drink, and so he set
this poem in Cumbria. The wagtail appears three times in the larger picture, and
once in the smaller, representing the four verses. The period of the engraving is
ambiguous, as the rather 'green' message of the poem is at least as valid now as it
was in Hardy's time.
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