Farewell, great chieftain of the punning race,
we’ll miss your jokes, the delight on your face
whenever an absurdity occurred,
an entendre doubled, a play on a word.
We’ll miss you when we arrive and your fire
is drawing well; we never thought you’d tire
of pouring wine and welcoming us yet
again with obscure references we didn’t get.
And we’ll miss you when we leave; see you there
in the lane, caught in our memory’s glare,
ushering us safely out, chin and eyebrows raised,
the flourishing goodnight, the inimitable wave.
We thought you’d always kick your outstretched hand
and say ‘that high’, and tell us that you planned
another trip to France to buy red wine
that no one ever did describe as fine.
We thought you’d always be there, mystified
By movie plots, looking at life from one side,
Making your way by ‘B’ roads, slightly late,
With a map from nineteen twenty eight.
We thought there’d be more outings, weekends, walks,
more laughter, family occasions, serious talks,
more trips away, more holidays, visits to Tyree,
more dinners, Christmases, New Years – not to be.
We thought there’d be more Burns nights still to come
With groaning trencher, knife raised high, and some
obscurity like ‘hurdies’ (you don’t want to know) –
lost on us all – but we still enjoyed the show.
We’ll miss your intuitive understanding
of new developments in computing,
we’ll miss more the nostalgia for values,
for courtesy, craftsmanship, cathedrals.
We’ll miss you for bacon sarnies, Brakspears,
at the pub, and sometimes there’ll be tears
when red kites fly and we wish you could
be with us there on Swyncombe Downs, in Pixie wood.
We’ll miss it all, Garrow, and see you often
still, in photos and in memories that soften
the loss, keep you with us in spirit, and tell
us – go gently with each other and all will be well.
In truth we can’t believe it’s at an end …
We thought you’d make old bones, old friend.
But we’ll remember a man, joking aside,
Who considerately lived, and bravely died.
In Burns’ words, your life’s “well wordy of a grace”;
goodbye, great chieftain of the punning race.
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