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Fr. Cecil Champneys Burnham

1914 - 2002

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The Constable's Dilemma

Come back with me a century or so

To a dingy backstreet of Soho.

The year is 1848,.

The time is evening, very late.

Now meet the hero of our tale;

His name is Joseph William Dale.

You hear the tramp of heavy feet

And know a copper’s on his beat.

It’s very sad but it’s long ago —

Police like Joe were rather slow.

Joe’s trouble as he knew too well

Was simply this — he could not spell.

With simple words he was all right,

But something bigger caused him fright.

The old gas lights were very dim

A fact, I fear, that bothered him.

A misty fog filled all the sky

And shadowy figures passed him by.

Then suddenly - the air grew chill -

He saw a large shape lying still.

He calmed his nerves as a policeman must

And the light he carried forward thrust.

Quite bravely as befits the Force

He looked - and saw it was a horse.


“Get up. you brute! You can’t lie here”

He shouted in the horse’s ear”,

But the horse ignored all that he’d said,

For it was clear that that horse was dead.

Joe licked his pencil and then wrote

For future use a little note:

“At ten to twelve” — his writing wobbles –

“I found a horse upon the cobbles”.

“There was no owner I could see;

The horse was dead as dead can be”.

The name of the street — though he could tell it —

He found alas he could not spell it.

Nebuchadnezzar it was called.

Poor old Joe was quite appalled.

Two sturdy men were passing by

And for their help did Joseph cry.

Around the corner they dragged the horse

To lie in a different street of course.

Joe sighed with relief and then wrote again,

“I found the horse in Pudding Lane”.


Copyright © 2000 [Rev. C. Champneys Burnham]. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 24, 2018 .