... Andrew Motion's contemporary nursery rhyme, "The Man".
Mother! Mother! Why's that man
Behind us on the bus?
Sssh my darling, look away
And he won't look at us.
Mother! Mother! Why's his face
So angry and so cold?
Sssh my darling, never mind
And do as you are told.
Mother! Mother! Why's that clock
Tick-tocking on his chest?
Sssh my darling, take my hand
It's just the way he's dressed.
Mother! Mother! Why's the world
No longer passing by?
Sssh my darling, come with me
It's time we said good-bye.
This appeared in The Grauniad's Are you sitting comfortably?
It's superb. There's a historic particularity, which I often feel in the generality of a nursery rhyme. It's got the right language, the right use of repetition, and the right rhythm for a nursery rhyme. What I think marks it out is the handling of the final line of each stanza, the first three almost plonkingly pedestrian and exactly what a mother would say (I know I've said at least one of them), the final one just as banal but, with the double import of that goodbye--the commonplace au revoir and a fatal, final adieu--utterly shocking.
Wow. [with tears in my eyes]
Having failed previously to memetically post a poem--having thought variously of Milligan's "String" and Auden's "Shield of Achilles" and nowt in between--this is now my contribution.