A sundial’s lament

The end of this piece embodies a two-liner by Hilaire Belloc, the only poem I can remember in full from my schooldays. This particular sundial tries to argue for wider acceptance but, like Belloc’s, has to come to terms with market realities.


I’m a solar-powered timepiece that you do not have to wind.
I’m as quiet as the grave, because I’ve got no gears to grind.
I don’t wear out; I don’t slow down; my rhythm never slips,
So I do not need adjustment when you hear the Greenwich pips.
You would think all these advantages, and others I could mention,
Would leave the world amazed at such a marvellous invention.

The trouble is, although I’m astronomically right,
I’m not much good to people in the middle of the night;
Not portable, not digital, not radio-controlled;
No buttons, knobs or winder shafts. I’m from a different mould
That’s schooled in more traditional and self-effacing ways –
The strong and silent type that isn’t popular these days.

The clamour of the modern world is urgent and incessant;
Overtaken by technology, I’m feeling obsolescent.
I can’t adapt to BST; I’m useless doing seconds;
I’m just a quaint anachronism, everybody reckons.
In short, I am a sundial, and I make a hopeless botch
Of what most folk will say is done far better by a watch.

[Photo: The Horsham Society]
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