Dancing Dust

Poems by Mollie Caird (1922-2000)

High tide in the High

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(With apologies to Charles Kingsley, Jean Ingelow and others)

O Mary, call the cattle home
Across the Plain.  The Gates of Rome
Were safer from the Goths, we know,
Than Oxford from the Tidal Flow.
Ah me! Alas! Cry woe, cry woe,
Beware the awful Tidal Flow!
No refuge now the bastioned wall
To those of Queen's and Teddy Hall,
Across the Bridge the waves rise higher,
Pergamon's lost like ancient Tyre,
The isles and bollards are in vain,
All sunk beneath the flowing main.
Now lo! In All Souls' hoary halls
Engulfed the unwatched Sparrow falls,
While near, in swirling unplumbed pools
Duck dives and fishes swim in Schools
Where Miller (unlike him of Dee)
Sings watery woe, not jollity.
Come not into the garden Maud,
The paths are all too deep to ford,
But Mary, call the cattle home
Where Shelley, underneath his dome,
Washed from his slab by rising foam,
Poor marble Shelley drowns again
Full fathom five in Logic Lane.
Hark, hark! The bells ring Enderby,
The High Street shifts like sands of Dee;
Come home! But never home came she
Since Magdalen Tower is in the sea.

In 1968 a reversible lane was introduced on Magdalen Bridge and High Street Oxford.  Literary allusions are left to the reader. The Pergamon Press had a bookshop at the Plain; John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls' College; John Redcliffe-Maud, Master of University College where Shelley's memorial is; Logic Lane is a small side street spanned by a bridge.

Oxford Times, 12 January 1968