We are the backward gazing, time reversing
Searchers after those who went before;
Those by whom long gone we were begotten,
Those whom else had surely been forgotten

We are regenerators of the generations
Scratching at our roots as we explore,
We are disturbers of inglorious slumbers,
Reawakening kin in countless numbers.

We are the raiders of the rector's records
Marriage lifters, stealers from the store
Of births and deaths inscribed across the years;
We are the scrupulous, the stringent scrutineers.

We are decipherers of decaying tombstones
"Rest in peace" beside the vestry door
Is spur to wrest from ancient lichened letters
Details of the lives of our begetters

We are the zealous readers of the Wills,
With widows, sons and daughters to the fore,
We are the sensors of the dead decennial census
Construing tell-tale clues which each dispenses
We are the sentries of the passing centuries.
Challenging the years to yield yet more,
We are the addicts of an arcane mystery.
Anglers in the private pools of history.
He pondered on his lineage, from whence he might have sprung
'Till it became obsession like a hymn as yet unsung
His enthusiasm mounted, his suppositions flew
He was sure 'Smith' should be hyphened 'Smythe-Jones or Pettigrew"

He never had felt quite at ease, with all the common herd
When bawdiness was evident, he didn't hear a word
He'd always been of lofty mien, his nose was acquiline
He'd always voted Tory and he only read "The Times"

His forebears had been landowners, he felt it in his blood -
Whose serfs had pulled their forelocks as they knelt down in the mud
He really ought to take a wife, he owed it to the State
He mustn't let the line die out - he'd have to procreate.

He would design a coat of arms original and new
Something being rampant on top of a gnu
There had to be a motto - he really must put that in
'Breeding conquers everything' how did that go in latin ?

It didn't take him long to find how humble was his birth
When reading up his ancestry, what shocks he did unearth
He read of theft and fraudulence, sheep-stealers erstwhile hung-
So screwing up the evidence his hymns remained unsung.

He'd disregard the knowledge, forget about the crimes
He'd buy some cod and chips that night, and eat them from 'The Times'
He set light to his hopes and dreams, with minimum of fuss
Then clocked into the Depot and climbed aboard his bus.
My old man's a banker
And his old man was a clerk
And his old man was a gardener
Who worked in his Lordships park
And they were all descended
If you check their pedigreee
From a long long line of Ag-Labs
Back to 1483.

They never fought at Agincourt
Or sailed from Plymouth Hoe,
And when Oliver Cromwell
raised his troops
They kept their head down low
I'm very well descended
If you check my pedigree
From a long long line of dodgers
back to 1483

My old man's a con-man
And his old man was a lag
And his old man was a burglar bold
With a mask and a bag marked 'swag'
We're very well descended
If you check my pedigree
From a long long line of varlets
back to 1483

You may be well connected
And proud of your ancestry
You may think you're from
the top-most drawer
The cream of society
But if you trace your forbears
You may find, just like me,
They're a long long line of no-bodies
back to 1483
Here they went with smock and crook
Toiled in the sun, lolled in the shade
Here they mudded out the brook
And here their hatchet cleared the glade
Harvest-supper woke their wit
Huntsman moon, their wooings lit

From this church they led their brides
From this church themselves were led
Shoulder high; on these waysides
Sat to take their beer and bread
Names are gone - what men they were
These their cottages declare.

Names are vanished, save the few
In the old brown Bible scrawled:
These were men of pith and thew.
Whom the city never called.
Scarce could read or bold a quill
Built the barn, the forge, the mill
Unrecorded, unrenowned
Men from whom my ways begin.
The year revolves, and I again explore
The simple annals of my village poor:
What infant members in my flock appear;
And who, of old or young, or nymphs or swains,
Are lost to life, its pleasure and its pains.

No Muse I ask, before my view to bring
The humble actions of the swains I sing -
How passed the youthful, how the old their days;
Who sank in sloth, and who aspired to praise;
Their tempers, manners, morals, customs, arts;
What parts they had, and how they 'mploy'd their parts;

By what elated, soothed, seduced, depress'd.
Full well I know - these records give the rest.
Oh! I ain't as old as I used to be
And I shall never pass my prime
For this jolly old census enables me
To laugh at the lapse of time.

There's only a month 'twixt my wife and me,
And now she has lost five years
I must keep alongside of her you see
And measure my life by hers.

Sister Jane was the first of our family -
When she gave me her age I smiled -
For she carried us all in our infancy
And now she's the youngest child !

I know that Aunt Susan is sixty three -
Cousin Tom is forty-one -
By the latest return I was pained to see
That at seven she embraced a son !

If I live to Methuselah's age I fear
I never can reach four score -
Let them give us a census just once a year,
I shall soon be a child once more !
This page last modified on Saturday, February 17, 2007