22 AUGUST 1958, Page 24

The Retired Colonel

Who lived at the top end of our street Was a Mafeking stereotype, ageing. Came, face pulped scarlet with kept rage, For air past our gate.

Barked at his dog knout and whiperack And cowerings of India : five or six wars Stiffened in his reddened neck; Brow bull-down for the stroke.

Wife dead, daughters gone, lived on Honouring his own caricature.

Shot through the heart with whisky wore The lurch like ancient courage, would not go down While posterity's trash stood, held His habits like a last stand, even As if he had Victoria rolled In a Union Jack in that stronghold.

And what if his sort should vanish?

The rabble starlings roar upon Trafalgar. The man-eating British lion By a pimply age brought down. Here's his head mounted, though only in rhymes, Beside the head of the last English Wolf (those starved gloomy times!) And the last sturgeon of Thames.