Wednesday marked the birthday of one of my personal heroes, John Lennon. A man of significant complexity, his creative output was largely the product of a turbulent upbringing and some extremely rebellious teenage years. What he did create had a seismic impact upon global culture. Had his life not been cut short on 8 December 1980, John Lennon would this week have turned 73.
In memory of the man who helped give us The Beatles and a new respect for the bed-bound protest, here is one of my favourite of his poems.
The Wumberlog (or The Magic Dog)
By John Lennon
Whilst all the tow was sleepy
Crept a little boy from bed
To fained the wondrous peoble
Wot lived when they were dead.
He packed a little voucher
For his dinner ‘neath a tree.
‘Perhumps a tiny dwarf or two
Would share abite with me?
‘Perchamp I’ll see the Wumberlog,
The highly feathered crow,
The larfing leaping Harristweed
And good old Uncle Joe.’
He packed he very trunkase,
Clean sockers for a week,
His book and denzil for his notes,
Then out the windy creep.
He met him friendly magic dog,
All black and curlew too,
Wot flew him fast in second class
To do wot he must do.
‘I’ll leave you now sir,’ said the dog,
‘But just before I go
I must advise you,’ said his friend
‘This boat to careflee row.’
‘I thank you kindly friendly pal,
I will,’ and so he did,
And floated down towards the land
Where all the secrets hid.
What larfs aplenty did he larf,
It seeming so absurd;
Whilst losing all his oars,
On his head he found a bird.
‘Hello,’ the bird said, larfing too,
‘I hope you don’t mind me,
I’ve come to guide you here on in,
In case you’re lost at sea.’
Well fancy that, the boy thought,
I never knew till now
That birds could speak so plainly.
He wondered – wonder how?
‘What kind of bird are you sir?’
He said with due respect,
‘I hope I’m not too nosey
But I didn’t not expect.’
‘I am a wumberlog you see,’
The bird replied – all coy,
‘The highly feathered species lad,
You ought to jump for joy.’
‘I would I would, if only, but
You see – well – yes, oh dear,
The thing is dear old Wumberlog
I’m petrified with fear!’
‘Now don’t be silly,’ said the bird,
‘I friendly – always – and
I’m not like Thorpy Grumphlap,
I’ll show you when we land.’
And soon the land came interview,
A ‘tastic sight for sure,
An island with an eye to see
To guide you into shore.
‘Hard to starboard,’ said a tree,
‘Yer focsle mainsle blast
Shivver timbers wayard wind
At last yer’ve come at last.’
‘You weren’t expecting me, I hope’
The boy said, puzzled now.
‘Of course we are,’ a thing said,
Looking slightly like a cow.
‘We’ve got the kettle going lad,’
A cheerful apple say,
‘I’ll bring a bag of friends along
Wot you can have for tay.’
A teawell ate, with dog and tree
Is not a common sight,
Especially when the dog himself
Had started off the flight.
‘How did you get here curlew friend?’
The boy said all a maze.
‘The same way you did, in a boat,’
The dog yelled through the haze.
‘Where are all the peoble, please,
Wot live when they are dead?
I’d like to see them if I may
Before I’m back in bed.’
‘You’ll see them son,’ a carrot said,
‘Don’t hurry us; you know
You’ve got to eat a plate of me
Before we let you go!’
Then off to see the peoble whom
The lad had come to see
And in the distance there he saw
A group of tweilve or three.
A little further on at last
There were a lot or more,
All digging in the ground and that,
All digging in the floor.
‘What are you digging all the time?’
He asked them like a brother.
Before they answered he could see
They really dug each other,
In fact they took it turns apiece
To lay down in the ground
And shove the soil upon the heads
Of all their friends around.
Well, what a sight! I ask you now.
He had to larf out loud.
Before he knew what happened
He’d gathered quite a crowed.
Without a word, and spades on high,
They all dug deep and low,
And placed the boy into a hole
Next to his Uncle Joe.
‘I told you not to come out here,’
His uncle said, all sad.
‘I had to Uncle,’ said the boy.
‘You’re all the friend I had.’
With just their heads above the ground
They bade a fond goodbye,
With all the people shouting out
‘Here’s mud into your eye!’
(And there certainly was.)