Practical Ballads (I)

The site: choose a dry site.
Avoid building against a bank.
Leaning a building to a bank may save putting up a wall,
but dampness will seep through,
you’ll see your mortar sweat,
you’ll be feeding to keep your pig warm,
this way she’ll not fatten profitably;
you may get roast out of it, but no bacon.

The size: Floor eight foot by eight foot good –
and slope off to a gutter;
pig’s urine swells the bean pods; cover from flies.
Height: that is your problem, your comfort,
for it is you who have to get in and fling the dung out,
at least once a week, this is most important.

Now is the time to be generous:
Throw the straw in, not one wad, but two, three, four –
The more straw the more dung
The more dung the more straw, eventually.
Oh, cover the pig, she’ll trample it.

As to the door, observe the stable, and copy that;
Make it of seasoned wood that won’t warp as mine did.
Don’t buy a bolt get a smith to make one –
Strength, not ornament, is necessary.
And that goes for the pig-sty, and poetry.
(1945)

Ronald Duncan

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