Jerome Betts : The Muftiless Major

(“The trouble is that English people form their opinions
in huge inbred chunks – there is a reactionary set of views and a progressive set, with very little cross-voting. Whoever heard of a prominent . . . nudist riding to hounds?”
New Statesman.)


Incorrect, silly Staggers, not right, I repeat.
Why no mention of Major McAddle
Whose prominence lay in an excellent seat
When stripped to the buff in the saddle?

Done soldiering sweatily right round the Raj,
From the Kharipore plains to the Khyber,
He retired to tell tales about tiger and Taj
Clad in nothing but sheer moral fibre.

Yes, the Indian sun, unrelentingly hot,
Had created such consummate loathing
Of textiles – “Too tickly! Unwearable, what?” –
Blighty-bound, he had banished all clothing.

So at Dulcet Vale meets, while the stirrup-cup tray
Greeted riders black-bowlered and booted,
One member stood out on his neatly-clipped bay,
Ruddy-faced, leather-skinned, birthday-suited.

In the longest of chases he kept up with hounds
Till his whooping proclaimed its conclusion.
(If saboteurs chanced on the source of the sounds
It occasioned progressive confusion.)

His fame swiftly spread to the neighbouring packs,
Floods of fairly foul jokes even faster,
Plus rumours of losing red coats to their backs
Should, as forecast, he make it to Master.

Mourn the lot of a man with a wide open mind!
The straight Right and Left joined their forces
To get the poor fellow securely confined,
Alleging he frightened the horses.

* * * * *
Watch the skies after midnight, a whisky in hand,
Now the coverts grow bare, winter’s markers,
For a glimpse of a great ghostly galloping band
With its legendary leader, still starkers.