SEEN AND NOT HEARD
Sometimes it might be better to be ‘seen and not heard’.
The expression ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is an old English proverb, dating from the 15th century. In the original form, it referred specifically to young women (girls) who were expected to keep quiet and not to chatter. This opinion is recorded in the 15th century collection of homilies written by an Augustinian clergyman called John Mirk in Mirk’s Festial, circa 1450:
Hyt ys old Englysch sawe: A mayde schuld be seen, but not herd.
While the expression was originally for young female, the Old English names denoting gender are now somewhat altered. A ‘mayde’ was normally a young female, usually unmarried, although it was also used to denote celibate men. Girls however, could be of either gender, and the term simply meant ‘a young child’.
Seen in green and heard
“At 6.30am as the light began to shine
I listened at breakfast to a constant whine
From an old lady in colours absinthe and wine
Who exhibited dementia without wearing a sign.
I sat and wondered why I’d bothered
To rise early and to then be mothered
By an ageing flower of yesteryear
Who could not assess a cow from a new-born deer.
“The dark green suit which she wore did not suit her
And where was her military uniformed suitor?
The fit of her coat was baggy and her face turned saggy
With her constant whining which grew very naggy.
As she sat and tucked in to breakfast with the mob
And complained like some lonesome, love-lorn old frog
Of the poor table service, cold food and tepid tea
In front of Cosmo, David, Jenny and me.
“The dawn breakfast was meant to be cheerful
Though we’d assembled wearing black – so respectful
To decorate the Hall with nothing so expectful
But to remember those who fought in defence
Of our country and others keen to mend Empire’s fence
For sovereignty and nation hood without recompense.
We looked across to see the fragile old lady in green
Engulfed in another rant of malady just to be seen.
“The old lady’s bleating, sniffles and coughing
Took its toll on the nine breakfasters at the table
Who had sought comradeship as a form of staple
In the warmth of the Memorial Hall decorated as an army stable.
We shared a darkened corner of the room
And listened to talk of doom and gloom
Of battles fought, some won, and some lost
And all the carnage which came as a real cost.
“In the end we decamped and moved to another table
With excuses of ‘Must circulate!’ as we were clearly able
To enjoy the company of others at a happier table
Dressed with uniforms, darkened clothes and fur sable.
We cheered up as the waiters brought hot tea and milk
Happy to share conversation with kith of our own ilk
In the Hall, we listened with others for a while
To show we were genuine in our respect and without guile.”
Should the green suit wearer be seen and not heard?
At breakfast, sometimes it is better to be seen and not heard.
Copyright of poem by Fiona Rothchilds 2019.
Other text courtesy of: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard.html
Uploaded 28 January 2019.