I think this is the title. The first line of the poem is 'He was the best postilion I ever had'. There are two stanzas, of 8 or 10 lines each. Looking for the full poem and the author.
The subject was presumably inspired by the story (?myth) of the 19th century guidebook which included the handy remark 'My postilion has been struck by lightning' in various foreign language translations for use by English travellers on the Continent.
My hovercraft is full of eels !
A web search brought up Dirk Bogarde's autobiography and lots of Dickens- no poems, though.
Bump, because I still haven't found it.
Frustrating, because it was in some anthology at home, written by some author I hadn't heard of, and I marked it with a post-it sticker, and now I can't remember which anthology, and I have looked through those I can find and none is the right one.
The last line of the poem was something like:
'...till he entered his last storm in the mountains'.
Found it !
It's by English writer, Patricia Beer, and in 'The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-1980' chosen by D.J.Enright, published by OUP 1980.
She must be about 80 years old now. I see from the Internet that her collected work was published by Carcanet in the early 1990s.
She was also the author of another memorable poem titled 'Abbey Tomb', beginning 'I told them not to ring the bells the night the Vikings came', which I eventually found on the Internet for an enquirer on the old Poetry Library 'Lost Quotations' site a couple of years ago, but which now seems to have disappeared from the Internet.
Anyway, here's the Postilion one. It's only short, but it's fun, and a great example of every word and phrase pulling its weight. It's probably still copyright, and if that's a problem for Emule, Stephen, by all means delete it, but I trust that PB won't mind too much if I add that if you like this small sample of her work, please buy her books of poetry, and especially her Collected Works!
The Postilion Has Been Struck By Lightning
He was the best postilion
I ever had. That summer in Europe
Came and went
In striding thunder-rain.
His tasselled shoulders bore up
More bad days than he could count
Till he entered his last storm in the mountains.
You to whom a postilion
Means only a cocked hat in a museum
Or a light
Anecdote, pity this one
Burnt at milordís expense far from home
Having seen every sight
But never anyone struck by lightning.
Post Edited (11-27-04 03:49)
Ian, I fished this from the PL archive - you can do this using the 'cached' facility in google -
by Patricia Beer
I told them not to ring the bells
The night the Vikings came
Out of the sea and passed us by.
The fog was thick as cream
And in the abbey we stood still
As if our breath might blare
Or pulses rattle if we once
Stopped staring at the door.
Through the walls and through the fog
We heard them passing by.
The deafer monks thanked God too soon
And later only I
Could catch the sound of prowling men
Still present in the hills
So everybody else agreed
To ring the abbey bells.
And even while the final clang
Still snored upon the air,
And while the ringers joked their way
Down round the spiral stair,
Before the spit of fervent prayer
Had dried into the stone
The raiders came back through the fog
And killed us one by one.
Father Abbot at the altar
Lay back with his knees
Doubled under him, caught napping
In the act of praise.
Brother John lay unresponsive
In the warming room.
The spiders came out for the heat
And then the rats for him.
Under the level of the sheep
Who graze here all the time
We lie now, under tourists' feet
Who in good weather come.
I told them not to ring the bells,
But centuries of rain
And blustering have made their tombs
Look just as right as mine.
Thanks, Stephen. It's good to read that one again. I entered the first two lines into Google as a single phrase without getting a hit, so there wasn't any cached facility to use. Out of interest, what did you search?
I've just noticed she has three poems in The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry:
In A Country Museum (which mentions postilion in the second lline - honest"!)
Jane Austen At The Window
Ian, you're in good company (and no surprise there) in that Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes chose the Postilion poem for their School Bag anthology.