Dancing Dust

Poems by Mollie Caird (1922-2000)

Meadow mandates
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Sweet peace.
Across the rough fen where the striped snipe dwell
And the ghost-grey heron stands sentinel
Old bells in fair towers chime and cease,
And tell of peace.

No rags.
You may watch the alder cones etched on the sky
And the moony mistletoe tangled high,
You may feed the squirrels out of paper bags —
But you mayn't wear rags.

No kites.
If you're eights in training or rugger blues
You may run down the Broad Walk in canvas shoes,
In the shortest of shorts or the tightest of tights

But you mayn't fly kites.

No parcels.
You may praise Merton palings with their glossy gilding,
Or say clever things about Meadow Building:
("Ultra-Betjemaniac baronial castle")

But you mayn't carry a parcel.

No hoops.
You can lean on the bridge and watch it pass,
The sliding Cherwell as green as glass,
Where the white swan floats and the willow droops

But you mayn't bowl hoops.

No road.
Let's add to the notice in thick black paint
Just one more thing that you jolly well mayn't:
Chapters, Commissions and Councils be blowed

You mayn't build a road.


A notice-board at the Rose Lane entrance to Christ Church Meadow forbids, among other things, the wearing of ragged clothes, the flying of kites, the carrying of bundles and parcels and the bowling of hoops.

At a planning inquiry in 1965 Sir Colin Buchanan (as he later became) persuaded the Inspector that the High Street relief road  through the  Meadow, which had been a proposal for over 20 years, would destroy a unique example of rus in urbe.

Oxford Times, 17 January 1964