If I could meet a shepherd and I heard
Him speaking in the fourteenth century
Some Cotswold dialect and every word
Dropped richly on the landscape’s tapestry
Of fierce grass woven onto limestone soil
—Yes, rich and fecundating in its way
And earthy, a vocabulary of toil—
And I could understand what he should say
When looking at that antique leather face
Smelling wool hides and fells, what would I know?
Hearing each syllable and every case
Correct, what would I know, what wolde ich knowe?
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 5, on page 35
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