[Note: this play was re-used in 1978]

Hoodening Play 1973

Copyright (c) The Hoodeners. All rights reserved.

That's good to have a roof over your head
Ah, that that is
Outside all is sodden, and lifeless, and drear
Thank God, it's the end of this ill-favour'd year!
From the start it was cold, and nothing would thrive
And there's scarce enough food left to keep us alive
For, just as the buds start to shoot in the spring
A sharp late May frost comes and kills everything
And the stiff new young shoots become withered and slack
And soft, silken leaves become shrivelled and black
The cock on the church tower he points to the east
And sits there unbudging for two months at least
You'd 'ave said the old parson was too tight to oil it
Or else 'ad a new cassock and didn't want t' spoil it
Then in June it was wet but still chilly and so
There was poor germination and little would grow
And the hay hardly reached to the height of my knees
And the apples all withered and fell off the trees
Still harvest time came, as it must every year
And we got in some corn, but we paid for it dear
What with thistles and sweat and with poppies — and flies
Which swarm in a cloud round your mouth and your eyes
And each time I bent down to stand up a shock
Two bones in my back got displaced and would lock
'E didn't half 'oller
Archaeology blokes once they dug up some chaps -
Some old Britons, or Romans or Saxons perhaps
I was never much good at your history or dates
But whenever it was, boy, they weren't much of mates -
For one had an axehead stuck here in his back
Where some rotten bastard had dealt him a crack
Poor bastard, I reckon I know how that feels!
He hollers and curses, he shouts and 'e squeals!
We di'n't need no scarer to frighten the birds
They all flew off, shocked by his blasphemous words
My God, my back did hurt. In the end I just had to go out and rest under the hedge and hope the pain would go away

And I thought for a time 'twould relent and be kind
Till a great wave of pain came and flooded my mind
Then ebb'd and then flowed and then came on again
And made me lament in my anguish and pain
And made me cry out with a curse and a groan
"You pitiless bastards, O leave me alone…
I'll do what you want if you'll only relent
Give up liquor and fags — well at least during Lent
Stop beating my missus (if she'll only obey)
Won't go betting or whoring — at least not today!"

Well, we got in the harvest and we sang harvest home
But, if that was a bad time, still worse was to come
For a great storm of rain came down in September
Such a wind and a storm as I never remember
What with rain and with wind and with lightning and thunder
The merest small stone was hurled splitted in sunder
And the sound of the wind 'gainst our north window-pane
Was like salvos of shots fired again and again
Christ, the lightning…
Imagine old Nick near a chasm or well
A bloody great hole leading straight into hell
Pulling up liquid fire with a bucket and chain
Which he throws o'er the village again and again
… and the thunder…
Imagine the devils had run short of coal
And pitched it from sacks down that bloody great hole
Watched it run down the chute with a rumble and roar
Tossed the sacks in the sky and then rushed off for more
… and the wind and the rain!
For shiv'ring the leaves of the aspen are known
They shiver no matter how lightly they're blown
That wind gave it something worth shivering for
Come morning that lay on its back on the floor
In Street Acre garden next morning at dawn
That's worst terrors realised, that lay on the lawn

'Tis an ill wind, they say, that blows no-one no good
For I carted it home and made use of the wood
And all over now is the shiv'ring of years
But still on my fire it drops by scalding tears

Christ, that was a night!
Come morning the ground's like a sponge or a sop
But the wind and the rain, why, that still doesn't stop
All that stands up before the storms flattens and soaks
From the most flimsy blooms to the knottiest oaks
You knew my old gramp, boy
Well, he was a sod
And worse when he'd had him
A few drinks, by God!

We was fencing by Sarre
'Twas lunch time, but first
The old gramp complain'd
Of a desperate thirst

So we goes in the King's Arms
And has us a few
When the old gramp comes out
There's no thing he can't do

He picks up a beetle
And lets fly at a stake
And drives that right in
Without any mistake

Then he drives on and on
As straight as can be
Till of that oaken stake
There is nothing to see

Then he does it again
To the posts all around
And doesn't stop once
'Til they're sunk or i' the ground

And that's just how the storm was
With shattering blow
Wind, rain and thunder-bolt
Laid everything low

Old Dobbin was out in it and that laid him low. He's never been the same since
(Dobbin coughs loudly)
We've wrapped him in blanket from his tail to his nose
But still after working he puffs and he blows
And one day at ploughing he collapsed on the ground
And lay there for hours like a horse in a shroud
Still, we got these for him and they seemed to do him some good — if you can get him to take them
Let's see
(reads slowly) "Dobbin: the tablets — take one every night". Let's give him one now
Then you hold him
All right
(They crowd round Dobbin in an attempt, destined to prove unsuccessful by ordinary means, to administer the drug)
Dobbin's struggling, blowing, biting -
Don't find physic too exciting
Dobbin's restless, almost bolting
Finds physic too revolting
Bites the hand could make him whole
Hold him, hold him! There, you fool!
Pick it up then, try again
Bung up his nostrils, Boy, and then
He'll have to open 'is mouth for breath
He's bit my hand again! God's death!
Someone catch hold of his tongue
Dammit, Boy, you should have hung
Onto his head. The jade's too strong
Let's take him home, Joe. Come along
We'll mix it in his mash…
          All right
Come, Boy. Come, Molly. Folks, goodnight!
No — damned if I'll be beaten yet
I'll dose the jade; my mind is set
All right, if that's your feeling, Joe
We'll have us yet another go
No, no Boy — think! Brute force has failed us
Muscle, brawn have not availed us
Now let's see what mind can do
Oh no, Moll — I did not mean you!
(They sit, ostentatiously thinking)
We sit in a circle our heads all a-nodding
Like "Le penseur" — 'The Thinker', carved by old Rodin
Who squats there just waiting for great thoughts to come
Grasps his chin in his hand…
                … and scratches his bum
(They continue 'thinking' in silence)
We could wrap the thing up in some nice fragrant hay
No good, Moll, we've tried that already today
(More 'thought' — Joe in a state of excitement)
We could creep up behind him — Ah, yes, Boy; well said!
What's up Joe?
          This thinking has addled his head
"UP BEHIND", Allan, Molly! Oh come; don't you see?
We'll give him his pill as a suppository
That's a little bit big, for the nag's anal tract
It'll never slip out then, Moll
          Ah, that's a fact
Come Molly, come Martin. I'll do the deed
Some pinchers, a bar is all that I'll need
But first put the bar in the fire just to heat
How's that Joe?
I reckon that's warmed up a treat
I reckon that's blood heat or just a bit hot
But 'tis time for his medicine, whether or not
Now, Boy, hold his bridle, and, Molly, his tail
I must get it home the first try without fail
Now hold him, now Boy. Whoa Dobbin, boy steady
Now Allan, you holding the enema ready?
Now Dobbin's standing cool and calm
With nothing here to cause alarm
His fate like sun at dawn of day
Is still full seven foot away
Now we slowly creep more near
But still as yet there's nought to fear
The moon can't burn with her soft light
Not so this arrow loosed by night
As Polyphemus deeply slept
As Ulysses upon him crept
And poised the stake above his eye
As we this warmed supposit'ry —
Perchance the giant let out a sound
Which froze sly NOMAN to the ground
(Dobbin farts loudly)
As we who bear this lighted brand
Frozen, indecisive stand
And once his single eye is skewered
The giant who the pangs endured
Called out for "Water!" with a groan
(Dobbin makes water)
Resourceful Dobbin makes his own!
That's water, air and fire we've got
(Dobbin purges himself)
Look out! Here's earth —
          That makes the lot
All elements in our nag are met
I hold th'elixir unused yet -
The ancient source of untold wealth
That can restore the sick to health
Then plant it, Joe, boy, ram it home
Oh, no more waiting; come, Joe, come!
Try how his sickness you can heal
At mere touch of this glowing steel
(The iron is thrust home. Dobbin's reaction is immediate and violent)
The room is filled with acrid steam
The air is rent by horse's scream
He's rearing; paws the air again
As if old chaos once more came
Ah see, he's going for the lad
My God, he's hit him, kicked him bad
Now he lies prostrate on the floor
His broken body stirs no more
(They all crowd round Martin, who does, indeed, lie prostrate on the floor)
He's dead — he's dead. Moll, who can doubt
His vital spark has been put out?
He lies like a discarded doll
Come join in keening, Allan, Moll
(They surround Martin and speak the following lament)
Before the cares of life could trace
Lines in the young fellow's face
Ends for him his earthly race
Unwrinkled is the soft young skin
The firm young cheeks, not sunken in
And rounded still the soft young chin
See, the soft locks on his clear brow
Will never become grizzled now
And that's some comfort, anyhow
Before he wedded, took a wife
Or knew of any other strife
Revengeful Dobbin took his life
Content his humble path to climb
Unsullied still by fault or crime
The eternal landlord has called time
Wrap him up then
(Martin is shrouded and then hoisted onto Allan and Joe's shoulders. They carry him to the sound of the funeral march)
Either my thews enfeebled are
Or else he's heavier by far
Than twelve months back when last he died
Hold hard! The corpse begins to slide
Let's put it down, Joe. I can bear
His weight no longer…
          Steady there!
(Martin is lowered to the ground. Allan and Joe sink down beside him)
Let's 'ave a rest. I'm spent for now
That's more like carrying a cow!
Moll, run on and tell his mother
Poor, poor old girl, she's got no other
The only apple of her eye!
Alas, the good full early die!
While still the wicked linger here
To plague the place year after year
Good… I don't know about good. I could tell you a thing or two about Martin. Listen:
Them twins that young Bett's got
Well, Martin's their dad!
And that pretty young Martha
He sired her little lad

And then there's that Jones gal
You seen her kid's eye?
And the way that that squinnies
Just like Martin's does. Why -

I seen him myself once
Before break of day
I was making my rounds once
From Chambers Wall way

I'd taken my gun
Looking out for a hare
But him and a young wench
They was already there

They was laid in the green grass
Amongst some tall hay
They didn't see me
So I tiptoes away

The sun rose up from the sea
Where't had spent all that night
That popped up and looked
And that blushed at the sight

He wooed her so softly
What he said, I don't know
But she answered more loudly
And said, "No, Martin, No!"

But he didn't get her that time
I gave them a fright
For I let loose both barrels -
A left and a right!

And they both started up
And she shrieked and ran home
I reckon they both thought
Their last hour had come

Oh, shame on you, Joe, to speak ill of the dead!
Why don't you just try to revive him instead?
I know, Joe — there's still left some heat in this bar
The treatment made Dobbin feel better by far
So let's try again, if this precious metallic
Instrument here, with its shape somewhat phallic
Can instill some new life in the poor stricken youth
He's stirring, he's breathing, he's rising — God's truth!
How do you feel, Boy?
All right. I wouldn't mind a drop of water
Shut up, you fool. Come on, let's get going
We've managed Martin to renew
And Dobbin, without physic too
Feels better for the warming touch
Of our elixir…
          … For, friends, such
Is the power that here I hold
To give new life to sick or old!
If any here is feeling sick
We'll warm it up and work the trick
Once more. All well? No clients now?
You've seen its power anyhow
And, if none wants 'is body mended
We hope there's none we have offended
If a mere speck you should espy
Which spoils your gaze, think how the eye
The nether eye once bore a bar
Of Dobbin…
          Think, friends, what you are
Be humble, loving and sincere
And at this dying of the year
Give freely for the children, friends
A generous heart can make amends
For many faults
          So freely give
And long and prosperous may you live
And happy die. Come dig deep, for…
If ye the Hooden Horse do feed
Throughout the year ye shall not need

Copyright (c) The Hoodeners. All rights reserved.