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).
When I talk with my lefty friends On art and architecture, They all are oh-so-modern in their taste. And so I have to talk to them On anything but architecture, All to keep things sweet, if rather chaste.
So what’s this style that they’ve embraced ? A smashing of the ruling class ? A break with endless cut-and-paste, debased In choc’late-boxy quaintness ? So is a love for steel and glass A love for unconstraint-ness ?
But when I talk with the lovers of The column and the arch, We have to keep the topic to the stones, For stray to social policy, And progress on the march, And I quickly learn they’re Tories to their bones.
So what’s this style they’ve seen replaced ? A harking back to Empire ? Of seeing Albion defaced, disgraced, Encased in brutalism ? So is a love for dome and spire A love for old-time feudalism ?
On one side are better lives in ugly buildings – On the other – palaces, but for the rich. And yet the latter need what brother-artisans are skilled in – Frescos, gargoyles, heraldry – the very things we’re told are kitsch. But have we really got no use for them ? Can we not have our peace and rights and social care, And still have ornament to spare To build our new Jerusalem ?
If you don’t like this then you’re a moron, If you do like that then you’re a lout, If you’d rather t’other, then I guess you’re on your own – For even when the way is shown, You’d rather do without.
If you don’t like this then you’re a cretin, If you do like that then you’re a square – Yet now, for all my years of selfless vetting of the muse, So you masses never have to choose, It’s like you just don’t care…
How can you reject my spotless taste In favour of your own ? Or let my perfect wisdom go to waste Despite my megaphone ? For who will sing the praises of the chosen That they’ve scarcely earned, And who will prick the egos of the posers Once their backs are turned ?
So if you don’t like this then you’re a heathen, And if you do like that, you’re thick as planks – For I alone am high priest to this seething sea of stars, I’m crushing dreams, inflicting scars – Yet still I get no thanks !
“Van Go”, he said, thus mangling it Quite in the American style – Yet in the accent of a Brit, From maybe Preston or Carlisle. So natur’ly I had to cough And stem this slovenly display – “I think you’ll find it’s said ‘Van Goff’, Misspoken in the English way.”
Ev’ry staircase runs in two directions, Even MC Escher’s – Join midway – on a landing, say, And we all must make selections – Oh, the pressure ! Do we climb for the sky through the oculus eye ? Or sink in the bowel of the gravity well ? Perhaps it’s an endless trip round a Mobius strip… Seems like Jacob’s dreams have gone to town, As the stairs go up, but the stairs go down – Descend today, and tomorrow we rise, Or labour now for a future of ease. Up is always hard on our thighs, And down is hard on our knees.
I saw a lepidopter’s case, A peon to the butterfly. With filigree of carapace From abdomen to compound eye. The duffer who possessed these critters Spoke at loving length of flitters
I wondered how this gent possessed Their tiny feet and stain-glass wings, For clearly one who so obsessed Could never harm so precious things – Therefore, it must surely follow, Ev’ry bodyshell was hollow.
These weren’t spent, discarded parts – For butterflies can never shed – They never get a dozen starts, And only gain their wings to spread Upon their change to adulthood – They change for once and change for good.
Maybe then they’re not rejected, Rather they are shiny new – Here displayed to be selected By the crawling grubs who queue – So they choose their new quintessence As they quit their adolescence.
Some are brighter, some are duller, Some are nippy, some enlarged – Pick a model, pick a colour, Carbon-framed and sugar-charged. Are you a grounded caterpillar ? You should check these stats – they’re killer !
Just as a church is crowned by a spire, And just as the spire is crowned by a cross, So the cross is crowned by a stiffened wire That points heavenwards and reaches higher, Showing God that science is boss. From king to serf to country squire, Nobody’s prayers and nobody’s choir, To God or Thor or Helios, Can stop the bolt of electric fire – Not any pope or priest or friar Can tame the spark and spare the loss Like copper can. And that is why There’s a spike that jabs the eye of the sky, With a finger raised to the holy man on high.