The Flail

When winter firmly tak's a howl',
And days are dreary, drab and coul',
Wi' bitter sleet and drivin' hail,
Then Wullie Boyd tak's up his flail.

There's growin' stirks and milkin' kye
That need fresh fother by and by,
So Wullie's flail gets intae gear
And flings it's echo far and near.

You'll hear him in the early morn',
Wi' steady thud he flails the corn.
He sees his beasts and horses fed
Afore his neighbours lea' their bed.

I've often watched wi' boyish glee
How Wullie made the barley flee.
I've heard the ag-ed rafters croak
Beneath his steady, measured stroke.

See how the neat begirdled sheaf
Sae pinko' stem wi' glossy leaf
Succumbs tae Wullie's practised skill,
A sturdy human threshin' mill.

A swish, a thud, the flail descends,
The tortured sheaf in agony bends,
The seed is scattered roun' like hail
'Neath Wullie's unrepentant flail.

Doon in the byre the drowsy kye
Are lyin' warm and snug and dry.
Unmindfu' o' the steady thud,
They doze content, or chew the cud.

At last the flail is cast aside,
The wooden hatch is opened wide,
The eager beasts soon understan'
That breakfast time is noo at han'.

And Wullie sees each gets it's share,
A liberal feed wi' some tae spare.
And then the kitchen's temptin' smell
Invites him forth tae feed himsel'.

There's two big rashers, side by side,
A blue duck egg in gravy fried,
And fadge that tae your innards cling -
A breakfast fit for ony King.

Thus fortified, nae man can fail
Tae match the torture o' the flail,
For only sinews made o' steel
Can swing a flail - and swing it weel.

There's something noble, grand and rare
Tae see a flail swish through the air.
There's mystic music in each stroke
As though some tribal drum had spoke.

So niver-more will I complain
If through my bedroom window pane
The thud o' Wullie's flail should seep,
And spoil my early mornin' sleep.

Instead - I'll maybe breath a prayer
And think o' Wullie toilin' there.
But niver-more I'll be annoyed
Tae hear the flail o' Wullie Boyd.

John Clifford (1955)

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John Clifford
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