Novotel Warrior

gideon
Gideon & His Three Hundred, artist unknown

 

Novotel Warrior

Gideon, Gideon, scourge of the Midian,
Judge of Manasseh and tough as obsidian.
Beating the wheat, he’s a young man of might,
So Yahweh descended with orders to fight:
To turn back the raidings of Midianite,
And break down the altar of Baal.

The idol he smashed, but to Yahweh a snarl –
“Prove you are greater than this god of Gog –
Keep the fleece dry when the dew tries to sog.”
Almighty proven, the lad must take charge
He raised up an army, but thought it too large,
And kept only soldiers who drank like a dog.

Now here’s an adventure to savour !,
To pass a long and lonely night
Within a small, strange room –
Never mind about the Saviour,
Read about the epic fight
As Gideon brings Midian to doom !

Gideon, Gideon, hiding his light in a jar,
Outnumbered by far,
But winning the night with trumpets and pluck
If only, if only the tale were all told,
Of the faithful and bold,
Of defending their homeland with Yahweh and luck.

But next came the slaughter, as wholesale as usual,
All egged on by Yahweh at mercy’s refusal –
When allies were wetbacks, he butchered the sods.
Then forty years later, his reign was still feted –
He died in contentment, unpunished and sated
As he took many wives and he praised many gods.

Now here’s a tale of confusion…
To pass a cold and friendless night
Within a sad, sparse room –
What moral should be our conclusion ?
The lonely will not find much light
To lead them out of an early tomb.

 

I’m not sure which Syllable to stress in ‘Manasseh’, being one of those words I’ve seen written but never heard spoken, but my subconscious wants it to be the second one, perhaps influenced by ‘molasses’.  If it turns out to be the first then the second line won’t scan very well, so I guess will need to be changed to ‘Manasseh judge’.  Ah, the vagueries of English…

 

 

The Gifts of the Magi

magi
detail from The Adoration of the Magi tapestry by Edwin Burne-Jones, Wllliam Morris & John Dearle

 

The Gifts of the Magi

The Magi came to Bethlehem
As guided by a rising star,
And there a newborn greeted them
Beyond the busy brisk bazaar.
So three wise men each bore a gift –
The other nine just looked-on, miffed.

The first brought gold – a solid lump –
An ingot, so the paintings show.
That must have made young Mary jump
As Caspar flashed his gift aglow.
But prizes prising gasps aghast
Should surely be withheld till last.

Then Melchior with frankincense
To sweetly burn at times of prayer –
The sort of thing we all dispense,
To hosts and strangers ev’rywhere.
Safe and useful, just the thing
To give to clients, in-laws, kings.

And finally there came the myrrh –
Embalming oil for the dead.
A tactless gift to give, for sure,
That only brings a parent dread.
Poor Balthazar had left them cold –
And wished he’d also thought of gold !

 

 

 

The Annunciation to the Shepherds

shepherds
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck

 

The Annunciation to the Shepherds

An angel found some shepherds
In the lambing pastures, not too far,
All keeping one eye out for wolves,
And one eye on that bright new star.

And the angel said:
“Behold !
I bring you tidings great with joy !
In David’s royal city, a saviour is born !
For swaddled and mangered, an innocent boy
Has taken his breath on this bright, still morn.”

Some shepherds found an angel
In the lambing pastures, glowing gold,
And after all its urgings,
They sat and thought on what it told.

And the shepherds said:
“That’s nice,
But we must watch our precious ewes.
For all your holy light,
We cannot leave and risk to lose
A single suckling sheep tonight.
So go tell folk in Bethlehem –
Those townies love to be beguiled…
But we must keep our trusting lambs
As safe as any child.”

 

 

The Counting Carol

census
Sketch of the bas relief on the Altar of Domitius, showing different stages of a census (the original is one long strip, here split in two.  Judging from the armour, it likely dates from just before the Marian Reforms of 9894 HE.

 

 

sketch

 

The Counting Carol

[parts in italics are sung by all.]

The Romans go from house to house,
Just counting –
The Romans go from house to house
To count each man and dog and mouse,
And grub and flea and bug and louse,
In city, plain and mountain.
And when they knock upon our door
To tally up our stock and store,
Then what shall be our docket score ?
But hark, [knock knock]
But hark, [knock knock]
But hark, I hear them knocking…

I count twelve notes that make a scale.
So one last time, let us regale !
Twelve are the jurors, twelve are the scribes,
Twelve are the inches and twelve are the tribes,
And after a twelvemonth’s high society,
            Then twelve are the steps to dry sobriety.

Eleven players form a team,
Be they ladies, be they gents.

Ten is the base of our number sense,
Where digits get a neighbour.

Nine are the months of labour,
From conception through to birth.

Eight the planets, like the Earth,
Orbiting the Sun we are.

Seven diff’rent grades of star –
Oh be a fine girl, kiss me !  [/Oh be a fine guy, kiss me !]

Six the kingdoms of life we see –
Do kings play chess on fine green silk ?

Five is the hour we harvest the milk,
Five, five per day to thrive !
Five are my fingers, five are my toes,
Five is the starfish and five is the rose.
A hedgerow rose ?
Well, I suppose.
There’s always five on one of those.
Five are the petals and the leaves she grows,
            Attracting the bees and attracting the nose.

Four are the forces, I propose,
Forces nature shall have it be –
Electromagnetic and gravity,
And the strong and the weak attraction.

Three each science branch or faction –
Bio, chemo and physio learning.
Three the dimensions through which we’re turning,
And three the hands on my watch tell time.

Two is the first and smallest prime,
Two is the first of the even-kind.
Two, oh two, you’re one behind,
            You’re second-best at bestest.

And then came one, and so we rest –
We’ve counted each and ev’ry guest.
For one is one, the last and first,
            The very best, the very worst.
            For one is one, is most perverse –
            The all-enclosing universe.

 

 

This is intended to be a cumulitive carol, like Green Grow The Rushes, Oh or that other one whose name I can’t recall.  It starts from 1 and works its way upto 12, with cut-down verses to speed things along (they’re only sung in full when they’re introduced and on the final time.  Thus the penultimate verse is like this:

 

 

The Romans go from house to house,
Just counting –
But hark, [knock knock]
But hark, [knock knock]
But hark, I hear them knocking…

Eleven players form a team,
Be they ladies, be they gents.

Ten is the base of our number sense,
Where digits get a neighbour.

Nine are the months of labour,
From conception through to birth.

Eight the planets, like the Earth,
Orbiting the Sun we are.

Seven diff’rent grades of star –
Oh be a fine girl, kiss me !  [/Oh be a fine guy, kiss me !]

Six  the kingdoms of life we see –
Do kings play chess on fine green silk ?

Five is the hour we harvest the milk,
Five, five per day to thrive !

Four are the forces, I propose,
            With the strong and the weak attraction.

Three each science branch or faction,
            And three the hands on my watch tell time.

Two is the first and smallest prime,
            Two is the first of the even-kind.

And then came one, and so we rest –
            We’ve counted each and ev’ry guest.

 

 

The Charon Line

styx
 Charon Carries Souls across the River Styx by Alexander Litovchenko

 

The Charon Line

We lined-up on the shore,
All so silently and patient,
As we waited for the ferryman to come.
The river was so calm,
And the air so deathly still,
And the souls were so sepulchral and so glum.

The sky above was black,
With no moon or stars upon it,
And yet light there was, from unseen candle wicks.
The ripples barely washed
On the river we all knew we knew:
Some say the Acheron, and some the Styx.

The sand beneath our sandals
Was a ghostly grey, and barren,
And was bunched up by the groynes that strutted out.
No birds were seen there wading,
And no crabs were on the scuttle,
And no barnacles or sedges, flies or trout.

Yet offering a focus
Was a short and ancient jetty –
Like a road to nowhere but the endless sea.
And here it was we waited,
With no sense of how long waiting,
For we hadn’t any other place to be.

Then through the unseen nothing
Came the faintest splash and motion,
As a distant dory drifted into view –
And standing at its stern
Was the sternest man left standing,
As he worked his ten-foot ore into the blue.

With a slow and practices action
Of his stroke, recover, stroke,
So his rust-red ferry glided to the shore
With not a punt too many,
He was docked upon the jetty,
As he paintered-up and shoulder-slung his oar.

Bearded and burly
With the bearing of a bull,
Looking old as both the river and the boat.
A loincloth and a cloak
Were his only grubby garments,
With his chest and thighs as hairy as a goat.

He stood upon the planks
And he held his other hand out,
Which we knew was for the taking of the fare.
We reached into our mouths,
And we felt beneath our tongues,
And withdrew the coin deposited in there.

Some could find no obol
And they feared they should be stranded,
And they clutched their worried forehead in dismay
But lo !, they found two pennies
Had been placed upon their eyelids
And they sighed with some relief that they could pay.

The boatman took the money
Which he dropped into a leather pouch –
He never looked, but fingers felt the coins –
He knew which ones weren’t obols,
And he tossed them in the river,
And their owners likewise shoved against the groynes.

Those who proffered pennies
Earned a scowl and muttered whinges
On tradition, change, and numpties who know best.
But rules are rules, and tolls are tolls –
He pocketed the coppers both,
Then waved them on his barge just like the rest.

He only took a dozen,
As we sat on barest boards,
While he stood upon the till and plumbed his oar.
And those who couldn’t pay
Were the stranded of the sands,
Who must wander through the wasteland evermore.

And what was waiting for us
On that other, distant bank ?
We never tell, and you shall never know –
At least, until the day you die
And make the trip yourself –
Unless, of course, you’ve somewhere else to go ?

 

 

Unamused

muses
Portraits in the Characters of the Muses in the Temple of Apollo by Richard Samuel

 

Unamused

I used to walk with Grecians ev’ry day:
Callíope would whisper in my eager ear
Of battles fought for kingdoms won for heroes slain,
While Clío often passed my way
With tales of nations ancient, far and near,
And Thália could make me laugh a hurricane.

Melpómene just loved a fallen king,
While Érato was swooning over some romance,
As pious Pólyhýmnia was lilting psalms.
Eutérpe, now: that girl just loved to sing !,
Which always caused Terpsíchore to up-and-dance
While even swot Uránia had starry charms.

I used to dream with Grecians ev’ry night.
And thanks to them, I wrote as fast as ink would run
My songs and tales and poems, all my brain could hold.
And all of it was doggerel and trite !
For all of my ideas, there was not a-one
That captured even half an ounce of what they sold.

I’m better now – a lifetime lived and well,
Of sights and thoughts and loves and wisdoms heard,
Has brought me to the seasoned man I am today
But I am now, alas, beyond their spell –
For all of my ability to turn a word,
I cannot think of anything I need to say…

 

 

The names are given in their Greek form, which is slightly different from the Latin alternative we may be more familiar with, hence the accents to spring the correct syllables.

 

 

Anti-Venom

medusa
Medusa #2 by Hiroko Sakai

 

Anti-Venom

Gaze into the gaze of Medusa
And be forever transfixed,
Petrified by our seducer,
And the slither of her hips:
Just a flick of the tongue and a hiss of a smile,
Is all she needs to beguile her prey.
With her sleek, sleek body and her big, big hair,
And her cat-eyed long, long stare –

Back when slow-worms still had legs,
Asklepios, a shy young god,
Adrift without a cause or temple,
Just a toga and a rod,
Was blundering through Sarpedon,
Up the valley, down the scarp, and on
In search of sacred streams.
And there, within a cave, it seems,
While carefree and quite unawares,
He found the girl of his nightmares and his dreams

For they say that young Asklepios
Had never found his way,
Until he gazed upon Medusa,
Fell in love that very day,
And swore to heal all those who pray to him,
On her behalf,
And swore to ever after bear
Her symbol in his staff.
His temple was a shrine to her will,
Where serpents freely slinked among the ill.

But these days, preachers rarely praise
The grass-snake in the grass,
The serpent in the Garden
Isn’t welcome at the mass.
Saints were crowned for banishing and slander –
Or even worse,
The mauling, groping, serpent-handlers,
Just to prove a single verse –
Snake-oil merchants, hick-wood hacks
With diamond rings and diamondbacks.

But we who gazed upon Medusa,
Goths and metalheads and geeks,
Who don’t recoil from fang and coil,
As steadfast as those ancient Greeks,
Are blessed forever with her curse –
To see in ev’ry child of hers
Her beauty – deadly if unwise –
In never-blinking eyes.