Harvest Festival

The rector accepts all these sheaves with a flourish,
Arranges the stooks in the nooks of the chancel,
Takes stock of the apples the orchard, his parish,
Provides in response to his eloquent counsel.

He preaches of peaches, the fruit of the garden,
And jam fills the porch of his church every morning;
The rectory groans to the rhubarby burden
Of congregants' offerings. Some are discerning:

The mint and the parsley are timely for luncheon
(The rector's especially partial to mutton
And swedes, which he mentioned at - was it? - Ascension,
For he's seven young children, and each one a glutton).

Now he sips parsnip wine in the nave - it is sickly -
In stained light of dusk, runs his hands round the font. He
Sees somebody enter, throws hands up; then, quickly,
He blesses the man with the can of Del Monte.

In his sermon, he speaks of the ploughman, the shepherd,
The milkmaid, the blacksmith, the flail and the loom,
And with other absurdities everything's peppered.
A choirboy vomits that night on a tomb.

They're harvesting rectors like this every week.
They're scything them down and they're sending them round.
They're festival fools, and you won't turn their cheek
If they plant one on you in your sacrosanct ground.

From the book Rime Present