Every gentleman fills up his library: Every manor and palace and hall Has a room full of shelving that’s crammed full of bindings, All equally mannered and equally tall. And nowhere is half a row empty, And nowhere are bookstacks for want of a board. Do gentlemen skim for as long as they’ve shelving, Then quit once their volumes are suitably stored ?
She never signed her painting – It always seemed a little vain To have her name just floating there Unnoticed by her sitter. She’s didn’t want such tainting To blemish with a boasting stain, To clutter up her canvas square With copperplated litter.
She always hoped her styling Would clearly show who held the brush – And if that didn’t tip the wink Then hey ho, mum’s the word. But she could not help smiling, And sneaking-in (but keep it hush) In ev’ry artwork, paint or ink, A trademark ladybird.
It could be on a daffodil, It could be woven on a dress, Or scratched into a windowsill – It’s anybody’s guess. It could be jewelled into a brooch, Or iced upon a currant bun – Or yet emblazoned on a coach, But definitely fun.
So whether pest or saintling, Her beetles were her secret claim – Some were bigger, others smaller, Some were rather blurred. She never signed her painting, And history forgot her name – So galleries must call her The Lady Ladybird.
I’ve seen too many doors, And they’re nothing much, just doors – Just as expected. I open them, I close them, Or I pass them by unnoticed, Disconnected. I’ve turned too many knobs And I’ve knocked too many knockers In the gloom, Yet never thought about them Till I find I need a way To leave the room.
I’ve seen too many doors, Be they oaken, deal, or plywood, Or cold steel. I push them and I pull them, Or I sometimes have to slide them With a squeal. I’ve crossed so many thresholds And I’ve stepped on many stoops, Both front and aft, Yet never thought about them Till I find I need a way To stop the draught.
Gentle Francis Willughby, To best of his ability Has written us a thriller – see, The History of Fish ! Illustrated lib’rally, Meticulous and jibber-free – No charlatan or fibber, he, But honest, if not swish. The Royal-dubbed Society Have praised his work most high and free, And published with propriety His dense and hearty dish – Examining their parity And countless similarity, To classify with clarity Each finble, scule and gish. His work will lead inex’rably To Karl Linné’s complexity And Darwin’s sexy theory That the bishops try to squish – Yet mocked in perpetuity, His book an incongruity, For lacking the acuity Of Newton’s masterpiece – His grandiose Principia, That makes the heavens trippier And gravity much nippier, Is straining for release. But things are tight financially, With profits down substantially And Newton sees his chances flee Despite the Fellows’ wish – They cannot foot the bill, you see, The budget’s blown on Willughby – But don’t show Frank hostility, He’s not so queer a fish.
Toothy-mawed pteranodon, A stegosaur who drags its tail, Old T-Rex with no feathers on, Dimetrodon with a humpy sail – However much they’re wrong, At least they never hem or hedge – They’re always big and bold and cutting edge !
Pity the paleo-artists Who bring these skeletons to life, Who are the public midwife To a thousand playground dreams – No sooner have they started, When a fossil or a paper Is transforming facts to vapour And is picking at the seams.
One day, in a century, They’ll laugh at our sauropods For not swimming in the sea – No wonder how they look so odd… No matter how carefully We draw iguanodon his thumb, We are the Crystal Palace beasts to come.
Pity the paleo-artists, Their work is only for today – For if they don’t give way, Then their errors just persist. But don’t be brash or heartless – Their legacy is in the seeds That captures, stimulates, and feeds Each future dino-tologist.
Ev’ry thing I’ve ever heard is in me, Running through me, Lying low. Ev’ry song and ev’ry word within me Helps renew me, Helps me grow. I honour all who came before me, Credit all who built my story – Don’t forget and don’t ignore – For without them, then I would not be me, I’d have no core. But all their work is cogitated, Filtered, altered, complicated – All I ever loved and hated, Melts and bonds and stirs the pot of me In which they pour. Inspiration is no sin, But make it ours, and make it new – So add some flesh beneath the skin And add some point of view. All I saw and all I heard, I freely borrow, freely quote – But never, never word for word Or note for note.
I remember Sunday afternoons And watching classic black-and-whites, Though not so much for giant apes, Or top hats, kanes or men in tights – But all my fascination fell On the opening seconds-worth, Wond’ring at that giant mast, And where its feet made earth – Novaya Zemlya first, for one, And Svalbard, I concluded, next, Then Ellesmere Island for the third, But the last one had me vexed… There’s nothing there but shifting ice, Though far more then than left today – It’s just as well they’d long gone bust Before the ice gave way.
Angels in the ceiling, salvation in the needles, Organ practice in the air, the bishop looking proud – Gone is the busyness of canons, deans, and beadles, But the locked-up church can once again give welcome to the crowd. Monks used to pray here, monks who ministered the sick – But these days it is nurses who are rolling up the sleeves. So what would Jesus say at their death-defying trick ?, Their communion, regardless what each congregant believes. Would he drive them out, back to their lab’ratories ? Or would he get stuck-in with his newfound clientelle ? Stained-glass in the windows, telling ancient stories – Maybe in a thousand years, they’ll tell this one as well.
Statues – guardians of civic pride and retail, And dressed in the city’s stones to match – Though bronze is rather dark for showing detail – A bright day is essential, and a good eye to catch. Otherwise, they’re lumps of grey we walk by ev’ry day, Dispatches from the past that we’ve forgotten – Best they stay anonymous, it’s far more fun that way, Than a boring Lord of Borough-on-the-Rotten. Never read the base in any case, that’s all the past, Let’s privately recast them as we like – Look into each graven face and let our fancies race, With this one Lady Shazza, and that one Pikey Mike.
I’ve never been one for remembering the worthies in lumps of dark, dull bronze whose features are more often lost in the overcast light. The ancient world painted their statues, and indeed painted their churches, but we’re far too puriotan for that these days. But if we are to have them, let’s make them allegorical (and not necessarily female)…
Although having said that, there are two adjacent works at Hyde Park Corner which undermine my argument – one being Francis Wood’s Machine Gun Corps depiction of the Biblical David (despite the wielders of machine guns in the trenches being the very epitome of Goliath), appearing irrelevant and cliched when overshadowed by Charles Jagger & Lionel Pearson’s very literal Royal Artillery Monument (although in my defence, all of the supporting figures are suitably anonymous, including my favourite the Angel of Death).