“Ode to Millicent”; a poem by Martin Thornton

Ode to Millicent
Or Franciscus Redivivus

By Martin Thornton
(published in The Countryman, Summer 1972)

I was digging up potatoes in the garden of the Rectory,
In cold October sunshine, working steadily along,
Neither burdened by the labour nor the time that it would take me,
All enveloped in potatoes; millipedes; another row.
I was digging up potatoes in the garden of the Rectory;
Forget-me-not, convolvulus, more millipedes, and dock;
I was digging up potatoes, when I stopped.

And lit my pipe.

So I meandered, daydreamed, convolvulus and smoke rings,
Bird songs, thistledown, millipedes and daisies,
Men and ladies, boys and girls, convolvulus and babies,
I was digging up potatoes: when I stopped.

For God said stop.

And millipede stopped.

And God said: Benedicite! I wish to introduce Miss Millicent Pede.

And I said: Good afternoon Miss Pede.

And she said: Shall I sing you a song?

And I said: Yes please.

So she sang:

This is a song that has never been sung
Since the dawn of creation, when things first began,
God conceived me, designed me, and gave me legs: one—
And ninety-nine others in case that went wrong;
The Trinity made me, with infinite care,
With other such creatures his friendship to share;
For He’s fond of me, loving me all of my life,
And He also made rabbits and maggots and mice,
And bears and black-beetles and lizards and lice.
It’s marvellous, too, that He also produces
Donkeys and ducks and remarkable gooses,
And Einstein and Schweizer and Liebniz and Paine
And Martha and Mary and Emily Jane.
Yet the infinite glory I’m sure you’ll concede
Is that God is so fond of Miss Millicent Pede.

Then I dug some more potatoes in the garden of the Rectory,
In cold October sunshine, working steadily along.
I felt elevated, edified, incomparably comforted,
Excited, thrilled, and sanctified by Sister Milly’s song.

I have dug up lots of learning in the lecture room and library,
In dull December darkness reading rapidly along,
I have read about the attributes ascribed to the Divinity
By Paul and Mark and Matthew, Thomas and Tertullian,
I must hasten to refresh my mind, by Bellarmine or Bede:
But the God whom I can worship is the One who loves Miss Pede.