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In praise of... English eggs: From the archive, 30 April 1912


The Manchester Guardian's resident poet pens an ode to the British fowl

(According to a Reuter message from Adelaide, a team of six South Australian pullets has established a new world's record for egg-production. In twelve months 1,589 eggs, or an average of over 264 per pullet, were laid.)

Ye true-born British fowls, what have we here;
What shameful news is this, ye feathered gentry?
The world's egg-laying contest for the year,
And not a word of any English entry!

Think how our stalwart critics over-seas
Will take this text of such exceeding blackness,
And demonstrate once more with greatest ease
(And pained surprise) the mother country's slackness.

Think how they'll say, "Their ancient vigour sapped
By luxury and lack of emulation,
Even the British farmyard fowl is wrapped
In decadence and slothful enervation."

Or show that, short of eggs, no race can raise
The breed that face, uncowed, the foeman's bullets.
And prove that Rome's last, undistinguished days
Were equally devoid of healthy pullets.

O hens of England, stir yourselves, I beg;
Take careful thought and come to the conclusion
That henceforth you emit the frequent egg
In hitherto unparalleled profusion.

Put up some show this year, no matter how;
Appoint a captain, get a team selected -
You have the eyes of England on you now -
Our waning prestige must be resurrected!


Lucio was the pen name of Gordon Phillips, who submitted his first poem to the Manchester Guardian in 1910, aged 19. He became a reporter for the paper in 1912, was assistant editor from 1934 to 1940 and headed the Miscellany column, which included a weekly poetry slot, from 1919 until his sudden death in January 1952.

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