THE KING’S SCHOOL COMMEMORATION

The Head asked
The Custos, and
The Custos rang up
Yeovilton:
‘Could we have a little bit
Of sunshine for Commem?’
The Custos rang up
Yeovilton,
And Yeovilton
Said, ‘Not a chance.
You’ll have to face
A downpour –
Bags of rain
And British phlegm.’

The Custos put
The ‘phone down,
And went and told
Authority:
‘It’s going to rain and everybody
Will get wet,’ he said.
‘The speeches!’
Cried Authority,
‘The women’s hats!’
The garden lunch!
Away with soft choux pastry,
Serve Beef Wellington
Instead!’

‘Don’t panic!’ soothed
The Number Two,
And went to
His secretary.
He picked up a box file
And smiled at what he read.
‘It’s really
Very simple,
I’d thought of this
Contingency:
We cannot shift the weather –
We must shift
The chairs,’
He said.

‘And what about
The speaker?’
Enquired a colleague,
Passing by.
‘You’ve got to have a well-known chap
To stir them at Commem.’
‘I’ve settled that,’
The Head replied,
‘An Eton chum
Is coming down,
A top flight Civil Servant,
Someone close to the
P.M.’

The Bursar murmured
Worriedly,
‘I hope the seating’s
Adequate
For parents, staff and governors.’
Jeff Freeman rolled his eyes:
‘Nobody,’
He scowled,
‘Could call it
An easy fit;
It’s obvious
I need an abbey
Twice the
Present size.’

The Head Man preached
Humility:
‘Beware the force
Of circumstance.
It’s long been my opinion
Man’s propensities are bad.
Our freedom
Is a chimera,
We’ve just the slaves
Of upbringing.
In this I’m like the rest of you.’
The Choir sang
‘I was Glad.’

The prizes were
Distributed
With words of
Wholesome rhetoric:
‘Good practice for the future,
Life’s a pushy, cut-throat game.
Not winning
Is not losing;
Much of value
Will stay with you
From your time in
These surroundings;
To forget would be
A shame.’

And so to lunch –
A House event –
To eat and drink
And stand about,
To talk to those ad nauseam
We talk to last Commem.
Our stomachs
Groaned with calories,
With chicken, cheese and
Bisodol,
With anchovies in aspic and
A glass too much
Yquem.

The parents stayed
For coffee and
The coffee stopped them
Noticing
The clock had called the Sportsmen,
But the Sportsmen called the toss,
How sad the pitches
Were too far
To draw the crowds
The play deserved;
And so
The sport was,
In that sense,
A bit of a dead loss.

‘The CCF,’
The Colonel said,
‘Must show its mettle
Publicly.
I think it would impress
If we imported real live tanks.’
The plan was
Without parallel:
Its execution
Flagged a spot –
The audience was just confused,
Both shots and stares
Were blanks.

The Drama flourished
Mightily,
With Rattigan
And Venables,
With Ionesco, Wellby,
Two-man play and Robert Glen;
The audience,
Uncritical,
Awash with wine
And bonhomie,
Enjoyed it all
Through half-closed lids –
The mark
Of Sherborne men.

The Orchestra played
Waltzes that
Defied the dancers’
Sense of time;
The guests lurched optimistically
To finish off Commem.
And that’s the end,
There is no more
To say of this
Frivolity:
Some left, some stay, and I say
Requiescat in
Pacem.

S.P.H. Haigh