Song of Hiawalpole [1] 

by Joe Sinclair


This parody of Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha was written as a tribute to Audrey Walpole, the retiring chairwoman of a social club.  It runs to several stanzas, being almost as long as Longfellow's original work.  But only the few stanzas of the introduction are reproduced here.  The verse in its entirety, consisting of another eight sections,  may be found on the author's website via the link at the foot of this page. 


  Song of Hiawalpole:

A tribute to a chairperson, not so much retiring as retired.



 Should you ask me, whence these members?

Whence these spinsters and divorcees,

With their stories of betrayals,

With their sorrows and their hang-ups,

Whence these newly separated,

With the fret and fume of break-ups,

And the bachelor contingent,

With their deep-laid egocentrics,

As of whistling in the kitchens?


     I should answer, I should tell you,

“From the cities and the suburbs,

From the bounds of the Great North Ways,

From the land of the New Southgates,

From the land of the Cockfosters,

From the commons, ponds and parkways,

Where the hero, the Bob-Kurschner,

Feeds among the pubs and taverns,

I repeat them as I heard them

From the lips of Jay-the-Linden,

The musician, the sweet singer.”


     Should you ask where Jay-the-Linden

Found these songs, so wild and wayward,

Found these legends and traditions,

I should answer, I should tell you,

“In the midst of Epping Forest,

In the mumblings of the rambler,

In the hoof-prints of the Houghton,

In the eyrie of the Eckett!


     “All the sad-folk sang them to him,

In the Meadways and the Burroughs,

From the melancholy Marcias;

Don-the-Bake, the consort, sang them,

Pete-the-Loon, the wild-Gwen, Wawa,

The blue hero, Bob-the-Kurschner,

And the grouse, the John-the-Rayner!”


     If still further you should ask me,

Saying, “Who was Jay-the-Linden?

Tell us of this Jay-the-Linden.”

I should answer your enquiries

Straightway in such words as follows.


     “In the vale of Barnet’s centre,

In the green and silent valley,

By the pleasant picnic-parties,

Dwelt the singer Jay-the-Linden.

Round about the Barnet village

Spread the members and prospectives,

And beyond them stood the forest,

Stood the hordes of singing outcasts,

Brown in Summer, blue in Winter,

Ever sighing, ever singing.


     “And the pleasant meeting places,

You could trace them through the borough,

By the Red Lion in the Spring-time,

By the Green Man in the Summer,

By the White Horse in the Autumn,

By the Black Bull in the Winter;

And beside them dwelt the singer,

In the vale of Barnet’s centre,

In the green and silent borough.


     “There he sang of Hiawalpole,

Sang the song of Hiawalpole,

Sang her wondrous birth and being,

How she chaired and how she voted,

How she ruled, and toiled, and harried,

That the Thirty-plus might prosper,

That she might advance her members!”


     Ye who love the haunts of Barnet,

Love the sunshine of the Southgate,

Love the shadow of the Whetstone,

Love the wind among the Ponders,

And the Potters and the Bushey,

And the rushing of great traffic

Through the palisades of zebras,

And the thunder in High Loughton,

Whose innumerable echoes

Flap like Ecketts in their eyries; -

Listen to these wild traditions,

To this Song of Hiawalpole!


     Ye who love a “single’s” legends,

Love the ballads of a circle,

That like voices from afar off

Call to us to pause and listen,

Speak in tones so plain and childlike,

Scarcely can the ear distinguish

Whether they are sung or spoken; -

Listen to this Barnet Legend,

To this Song of Hiawalpole.


     Ye who sometimes in your rambles

Through the Green-slades of the county,

Where the tangled barberry-wardles

Hang their tufts of crimson Beryls

Over stone walls grey with Husseys,

Pause by some neglected tavern,

For a while to muse, and ponder

On a half-effaced graffito,

Written with little skill of song-craft,

Homely phrases, but each letter

Full of hope and yet of heart-break,

Full of all the tender pathos

Of the insecure, and weirdness; -

Stay and read this rude graffiti,

Read this Song of Hiawalpole.




[1]  Originally performed with voice and music for participants at two social evenings of the Barnet Thirty-Plus Social Club, for whose enjoyment it had been written, it may be viewed (and heard) in its entirety at .  The website music is different from the music that accompanied its performance in the early 1990s, but it is hoped that it will prove enjoyable, and can always be avoided with the use of the mute control.