Saturday, 17 January 2015

Hugo: a cautionary tale



Continuing with my task of versifying a range of artefacts linked to Fairlynch Museum, I remembered the story of Hugo the medieval saltworker.  Two years ago I wrote about him here when he was featured in our exhibition 'Sea, Salt and Sponges.'   His tragic end was cleverly depicted by local sculptress Angie Harlock Wilkinson, seen above. Here's my version: 

My story is of Otterton
And is a tragedy.
Its time the Middle Ages
In an ancient priory.
For you must know that long ago
The harvesting of salt
Paid even better wages
Than production of malt.   

The Prior was an angry man
And noted for his rage,
And Hugo was his servant,
Not noted as a sage.
For he did like his cider
In quantities profuse
And oftentimes did yield
To the wondrous apple juice.

It happened on a summer’s day
A day of burning sun,
That Hugo in the priory vault
Came seriously undone.
For he did quench the frightful thirst
He had from working for the monk,
From hours of shifting tons of salt,
And made himself blind drunk!

They tried to rouse him from his sleep,
But sadly all in vain.
No ladder could they find and so
Said Hugo was insane.
But craftily he’d hidden it
To drink all on his own.
The prior’s horrid rage did grow;
His servant lay there prone.

They left him there to sleep it off
Until at break of day,
Our Hugo did begin to wish
He’d not been led astray.
But as he put his ladder up
And climbed up to the top,
He met a cask of pickled fish
And fell in with a plop.

And so when prior and monks returned
In hope he’d come around,
They sadly disappointed were
To see poor Hugo drowned.
His awful end had come about
From cider that he’d tasted.
Let’s hope this story will deter
You all from getting wasted.

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