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Poetry

On Plough Monday, a “fool plough” or “white plough” was dragged about the village by young ploughmen covered in ribbons and other gay ornaments; they asked for pennies at every door and, if refused, they ploughed the ground before the cottage.

_________________________________________________Peter Ackroyd

At the first breaking of ground
we prayed heaven speed the plow,
that the bleared share of Christ that cuts us clean
off from England sacrifice
this heathen soil and make it new.
The ox heaved, the bands snapped taut and creaked,
the plowboy steered. Dragging like the Word’s
thorn through the heart, the plow turned blue,
turned up a froth of loam—O blessed ship
of our deliverance, the Mary and John,
the prow and the foam!

It was Hockday, but the holidays were dead—
ransomed for good the kidnapped men,
the fool plow fooled, old Bessy bullocks and the fox
refused at every door,
our poor defaulting hearts plowed in return.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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