There once was small fox family
that lived in roots of large oak tree
nearby Medieval built Cathedral Town,
where they could watch the goings-on
at village church and graveyard, yon,
observing human tasks from dusk ’til dawn.
Renard was oldest, father fox.
His wife, Fiona’s crimson locks,
were his most prized and cherished attribute,
but not more loved than their son Tod,
a playful boy, who would maraud
the local vineyard – Church’s precious fruit.
This annoyed the Bishop!
Deprived of wine, the Bishop prayed,
like Solomon’s similar raid,
“Lord, catch the foxes that ruin the vineyard.”
With that some deadly traps were set,
where Tod was caught within a net.
Then killed by hunters. Body left to disregard.
Fiona was beside herself!
Renard had lost his mental health,
and these became the couple’s darkest days.
But once they both regained their nerves,
determined their son’s death deserves
to be respected, just like human ways.
This involved the Bishop.
In those fine days, a fox could talk.
Renard was soon induced to walk
to obtain a burial for his son
within the local cemetery,
complete with sacred ceremony.
As such befits a most beloved one.
The fox achieved an interview
with Bishop, firm in Pontiff’s pew,
who said, “Dear friend, you must be too confused.
No foxes can be buried here!
The Catechism’s words are clear —
Just humans, sacred grounds. Request refused!”
Thus invoked the Bishop.
Fiona and Renard were mad.
The situation very sad.
They put forth a magical incantation.
If humanity is required,
they had the means that were desired,
for foxes were well known for transformation.
Renard changed Tod into a boy.
Required further for this ploy
were artifacts of Christianity.
Such things were needed to be found
for access onto sacred ground.
Deception had become a certainty —
to hoodwink the Bishop
So into church the couple drew,
to search each corner, every pew,
and there they found a holy locket chain.
Then, in the village, out to dry,
a peasant’s garments, foxes spy.
So into pocket, locket chain was lain.
Tod’s body later, gotten dressed,
when found where roads crossed east and west,
was taken to the local undertaker.
No relatives at all respond.
Considered Christian vagabond.
Consigned to cemetery pauper’s acre.
To be blessed by Bishop.
So, one fine morning, it was done.
To satisfy most everyone,
a small procession exited the church,
that carried a small wooden box.
Inside it was the transformed fox.
Unseen, its true identities emerge.
And on a tree nearby the site,
two foxes watch it with delight.
Tod buried with all proper dignity,
will hence be mourned with loving cries,
each evening as the twilight dies,
to echo now throughout eternity,
and heard by the Bishop.
I love to examine tree roots, and there are several along the Mississippi River banks. You never know what images they might reveal. This is one of my favorites. Doesn’t it look just like a fox with a a long bushy tail? I shot this picture one day, mainly to show the juxtaposition with the Cathedral of Saint Paul, but didn’t notice the fox until I loaded the image onto my ipad later. Then I was pleasantly surprised. It required a special poetic inspiration. So, I researched all the fox legends for a proper muse. The poem that resulted is my own creation, but I should explain some of its sources. It was written to become part of my Animated Stills collection, but I my also publish it as a separate children’s book some day. I am certainly open to suggestions and/or corrections.
Many cultures have legends about foxes. They mostly describe them as cunning tricksters. The word “shenanigan” is from the Irish word “sionnachuighim”, meaning “I play the fox.” Of course, we’ve all heard of someone being “out foxed.” Most legends have them talking. There are tales of fox transformation into humans.
Celtic tradition, particularly Scottish, use the name “Tod” for fox. Meanwhile, there are several stories in literature about a fox named Renard. The name Fionia is attributed to the Scottish poet James Macpherson, author of the Ossian Poems, which he claimed were translations from ancient Gaelic sources. Fiona is derived from an element meaning “vine.”
Song of Solomon 2:15 – “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards are in bloom.”
To a priest, much less a Bishop, what is more important than his wine?
A Cathedral is the seat of a Bishop.
So, all these elements coalesced to inspire my poem, but the concept is mine, due to the imagery.
This poem is simply a series of sestets (six line stanzas) with a rhyme scheme in each of: aabccb. The basic syllable count is 8,8,10,8,8,10, and a recurring refrain of 6 after every second stanza.
This photograph was taken by the author himself on March 6, 2016.