A 21st Century Yorkshire Shepherd – with collie and quad bike – better clad but still out in the rain.
You wouldn’t have cared for the night-shift, I can tell you,
not at the year’s end,
with the wind
slashing your face and numbing your aching mind;
and the snow; the bitter reality of it
seeping through the traditional gear,
which was, to say the least, inadequate.
We had it to do, but I think you’d
back us up when we say we would have preferred
to stay at home, in bed with our warm wives,
and a good long sleep in front of us –
You realise, I’m sure, that was before,
grumbling all together
in a huddle like the sheep;
before the instant of terror and the withering fear,
the shrapnel-shock, the streams of shell-light.
And when we dared to open our eyes to the skies’ blinding,
suddenly shattered out of our found senses
exploded into another world,
hurled on our ears the singing, singing heavens.
We soon moved off though some cynics were ready
to think we’d misunderstood.
But I knew when they said manger that’s what they meant.
Gathering the flock, near Embrun, France.
We went down into the town.
The party-goers coming home late thought we’d gone mad;
perhaps we had, but by then, there wasn’t a man
would have turned back.
You’ll be wondering how we felt when we knelt there
so near the baby and that young Mary?
Hard for a poor chap like me to express it really.
The light and the singing were gone;
just a smelly stable and the animals munching away.
A bit of an anti-climax in a way.
But you see we knew who it was there, sharing his bed
with the beasts, and we appreciated
our poverty after that;
after God had spoken his own Word
in our language
uncouth and poor.
A Shepherd’s Tale seems fitting on the day we remember the Holy and Blissful Martyr, Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, who laid down his life for his sheep on this evening in 1170 at Canterbury Cathedral.