The Serpent’s Gallstone

(A graduate of Manchester University looks back.)

I STUDIED in a dark Victorian pile,
Murky with yellow lamps by mocking day.
In its black courtyard- wrenched from the stiff clay
When it was built- a stone, the shade of bile,
Stood on a plinth, like a blunt- ended style
Pointing obliquely at the sodden grey.
“that is the Serpent’s Gallstone,” we would say
To the rare stranger, with a crooked smile.

For thus our motto ran: Be ye as wise
As serpents and as innocent as doves.
And so we learned all manner of strange lies;
We tasted gall in all our early loves,
Darkened our thoughts to match the darkened skies,
And, if our hands were clean, wore dirty gloves.

PUNCH, June 18 1958



1 thought on “The Serpent’s Gallstone”

  1. Oh, splendid,really splendid. Lister at the top of his form – especially that wry, thought-provoking ending. Thank you so much for the posting; this is one which I had missed.


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