Seen and not heard at breakfast is helpful

Seen and not heard at breakfast is helpful


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’.
ANZAC 1915 Christchurch dawn service

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.”
Fiona Rothchilds


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:
Uploaded 28 January 2019.

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