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Dear Will,

The silent swans still swim by Clopton Bridge
Though you might blink, amazed at what they see—
Its willow-bordered banks and foliage
Frame views of monuments we raised to thee!

From Tewkesbury to Naseby, where she springs,
We call the river Shakespeare’s Avon now,
And though, by Woollas Hall, a skylark sings,
No horse or oxen strain at any plough,

No rose-lipped maiden strips some rushy mere
Of cuckoo-buds for herbalists or crones,
Still less do young bucks poach proud Lucy’s deer
At Charlecote, where the old fool rests his bones.

The Falcon’s idle rogues are topers still,
Stout Bidford men can yet out-drink all buyers;
The waters there still wander as they will
And loop their way to Evesham through the Priors.

Wyre Piddle, Welford, Bredon, Grafton, Broom—
Those names you knew have long outlived your clay,
The ghost at Baginton cries out her doom
Though many another haunt has passed away.

So much has changed, so much! and yet the hearts
Of men are as you left them in your prime
Upon each page, each line— so wise your arts:
You were not for an age, but for all time!

And did she stir your dreams or goose-winged pen,
This river, by which worlds extol your name?
Sweet Bard, the words your magic conjured then
Stand dearer to our hearts than all your fame.

Written at the request of The Stratford-upon-Avon Town Management Partnership for the opening ceremony of the first Stratford River Festival for 34 years on Friday 3rd July, 2009.