Uncle Herbert was a sober man He dressed in black and wore a hat Never joked and rarely smiled He wasn't having anything of that.
Uncle Herbert was a worthy man Owner of a foundry farm Whom folk regarded with respect Not a man to cause alarm.
Uncle Herbert married well She was the landed gentry's niece They laboured hard and saved their pounds Lived a life of social ease.
My grand-dad was a poor man He dressed in what he could Never was in steady work His home a bungalow of wood.
Uncle Herbert and Auntie Annie came to call on us in summer And sat with Gran and Grand-dad on the lawn among the flowers. Reliving deeds and thoughts of old They talked for hours and hours.
"Do you recall that deal I made? The money earned The money spent. Bought this suit And Annie's hat With some over we could save. That's the time that you w
You went off to fight in France At Mons and River Marne Left the best years of your life At Paschendaele and on the Somme. I stayed here and built my wealth Invested mostly in the farm.
All you had was given up To raise five daughters and a son. We didn't do that sort of thing - Then in time we had just one. Our father would be proud to see Of what I've made From all he handed down to me. I have the trappings of success Have never spoiled myself Done nothing to excess. Hard but in all things fair I do not cheat, or drink or swear.
And you, my brother Harry, what can I say of you? About your language, about your style, and everything you do? Mother would have forty shocks - I'm sure she'd never dream That you would drink, smoke, curse and Even now blaspheme".
The sun began its slow descent behind the dark elm trees. Gran pulled on her cardigan against the evening breeze. Uncle Herbert observed his watch, tut-tutted about the hour, Put on his hat, took up his stick, and said they had to leave.
Then I was coming up to eight, Walking to the garden-gate Between these two old men Their words impressed me even then A piece of rural philosophy That stays within my memory.
"Harry, brother Harry, how much I envy you". My grand-dad stopped and looked askance Herbert went on without a glance: "How much I envy you".
"But Herbert you have everything Wealth, health And years ahead. Respect and reputation. Things I have never had".
"Years of anguish. Years of sorrow. Of loneliness as well. We had no time for fun or friend And now we face a lonesome end".
Grand-dad laughed: "Herbert, you have the wherewithal - Before you go to God - To live in style and luxury. You miserable old sod ! You envy me my poverty, my war-wound And this humble house This plot of garden-land".
Uncle Herbert twitched his whiskers And said in a voice that was just a whisper. "I do have money in the bank, position and social rank And everything I sought to do - But still I envy you.
I've been content but never happy That's why I envy you, my brother Harry, Your memories that they cannot take away. I envy you your memories On each and every day".
Uncle Herbert was a sober man A sombre, sober man.