Armageddon Hedonism

Pandemonium
Pandemonium by John Martin

 

Armageddon Hedonism

All aboard for the End of Days,
When kingdoms drown and cities blaze.
See stars burn out and worlds collide,
As the dead shall walk and the damned shall ride !
I’ll see you all at the bitter end,
When gods take arms and fates entwine.
We’re six-six-six for nil, my friend,
Let’s party like it’s ninety-nine !
The long goodbye, the last farewell:
I’ll see you all on the Road to Hell !

Fires to the north and fighting to the south,
The time has come, the Walrus said, and gently dabbed his mouth.
Famine to the west, and plague upon the east –
The Quick comingle with the Dead, the Angel with the Beast.
Penitents shall weep and moan –
Some prayers pleaded, others hurled.
We’re all for one and all alone,
So step right up for the End of the World !

Roll up !  Roll up for Ragnarok !
For hark !  There raps the Reaper’s knock.
Our days are short, our time is come,
I hear the trumpet and the drum.
I’ll see you all on Judgement Day,
When gods lay bets and futures mix.
We’re thirty-coins-per-soul, they say –
Keep tuppence back to cross the Styx.
We’re three-score-ten before the tomb:
I’ll see you all at the Gates to Doom !

Chaos to the left and jokers to the right,
The wind of Thor is blowing cold, the Morningstar is bright.
Shouting to the front and screaming to the rear –
The Saved shall ally with the Sold, the Comrade with the Clear.
Penitents shall beg and curse –
Some prosaic, some sublime.
It’s goodnight to the universe,
And set your clocks for the End of Time !

 

 

The Voyage of the Novum Organum

frontispiece
frontispiece from Novum Organum Scientiarum by Francis Bacon, art by anon

 

The Voyage of the Novum Organum

’Twas in the summer of ’20
When our galleon set sale.
Now gather ye, and plenty,
As I lay the fearless tale:
We soon approached the pillars bold
That Hercules himself, we’re told,
Had planted, so’s to say “Behold !
Behold these sights, and quail !
Here lies the End of the Earth, my friends,
And who knows what may lie beyond ?
It’s time to find what you’re worth, my friends,
If dareꞌst ye leave your pond.
Will you view my gates as a warning ?
Then head for home on the turning tide.
Or will you view my gates as a dawning ?
Then pass on through to the other side !”

Who knows if God shall forsake us ?
Who knows where the currents take us ?
Over the seas on our questing quest:
With our fortunes pressed for the holy grail,
As on and on we sail.

So wise old Captain Bacon
Gave the word to pass on through.
We prayed he weren’t mistaken
And a-gambling with his crew.
We sailed betwixt those ancient piers,
And set a course for new frontiers.
Once Argonauts, now pioneers !
’Twas time to earn our due.
“There lies the Start of the Earth, my friends,
When we find out what lies ahead !
It’s time to give rebirth, my friends,
It’s time to raise the dead !”

We knew great riches would await us,
All our maps were full of exes !
We dug up booty with apparatus,
And unearthed keys to fresh complexes.

Follow the clues, be smart and plucky;
Here be dragons, if we’re lucky !
Over the seas on our questing quest:
The better we guessed, the more we unveiled,
As on and on we sailed.

We plumbed that deep wide ocean
So’s to chart her reefs and bars
The first we found was motion –
It was written in the stars !
Then spied we microscopic forms –
A hidden world of tiny swarms.
We shuddered, but we rode such storms,
And better for the scars.
There lies so much joy on this Earth, my friends –
Let’s find out what we share her with !
There’s nowhere upon her in dearth, my friends –
She’s always more to give !
We sailed upon her seas of numbers,
Fathomed her amounts amounting:
Formulas and patterns slumbered –
Ev’rything, we learned, was counting.

And the point where the limit of our learning meets,
There’s always a fair wind filling our sheets.
Over the seas on our questing quest:
The more we professed, the more we regaled,
As on and on we sailed.

The further out our striving,
So the better stocked our stores.
And always we’re arriving
Onto ever-stranger shores.
And on those lands we took our drills
And tapped the streams and dug the hills
And set down bridges, rails and mills,
And just and noble laws.
We learned how the whole of the Earth, my friends,
Is built from the same few blocks, not more !
We learned how the life round her girth, my friends,
Is built from life before !
We sailed away to explore and learn,
And still there is so much more to find !
We know we can never again return
To that ancient world that we left behind.

We’ll never be bored and we’ll never be done;
We’ll never arrive at the setting sun.
Over the seas on our questing quest:
The more we progress, the higher we scale,
As on and on we sail.

 

 

The Land of the Saints

Cornubia
Cornubia by John Miller

 

     The Land of the Saints

They’re pious in Cornwall, or proud, or just quaint,
Sennan and Bryvyth, Morwetha and Cleer
They name half their villages after a saint;
Piran and Tudy, Winwillo, Gwinear
Not many Marys or Peters or Pauls,
Nevet and Probus, Mabena and Breock
For ev’ry Saint Helen’s we find a Saint Mawes.
Leven and Cuby, Wennapa and Feock
Our corporate saints have been roundly withstood,
Sithney and Breward, Lalluwy and Ruan
For theirs are so local, old Cornish done good.
Mylor and Sancreed, Illogan and Mewan

 

I’m sure I’m getting the emphasis wrong on some of these names, but that’s the beauty of English – anything goes, and my mispronunciation is just as valid as yours, especially when you definitely have never heard of these names before.  And yes, they’re Cornish, not English, but consider them now Anglisised.  And yes, I did just spell Anglisised with two esses – deal with it.

 

Kosher Insecta

fried beetles

 

Kosher Insecta

“…all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.”
                                                                                                            Leviticus, chapter 11, verse 23

Chow down on the damselflies,
Munch upon their crop –
Bite upon their compound eyes
Until you feel them pop.
Scoff on moths and feast on ’wigs,
Or ’skaters, ’skeeters, whirligigs;
Aphids served up by the dish
With ladybirds and silverfish.

Count the legs to know the score.
If six apiece, our bugs are pure.

Chomp upon the wasp when ripe
And pluck each silky wing,
Chew upon its barley-stripe
And suck its juicy sting.
Scarabs sate the palate well,
Just don’t forget to crack the shell;
Maggots taste so sweet and young,
When slowly melting on the tongue.

Count each foot and thigh and shin –
When legs are six, we never sin.

But locusts and crickets
All look like they’ve rickets
With bandy gert hindlegs for springing around.
And mantids, you’re saying
Have forelimbs for praying.
But all use all six when they creep on the ground.
And fleas, if you please, walk the hexa-gait too –
(At least, in the circus they do.)

So count each leg, each gnat and bee:
For six is fit anatomy !

*****

But feast not on the mutants,
The foul four-leggèd mutants !
Such creeping fowls thou shalt not eat,
With legs above their feet.

Beware the peacock butterfly !
I beg you, chase them from your homes –
Don’t let these devils flutter by,
With four-leg legs and foreleg combs.

Then feast not on the mutants,
These foul four-leggèd mutants !
Count the limbs in which they’re clad:
Six legs good, four legs bad.

And I heard of some bats in New Zealand
Who go on all fours on the floor
Their wings get tucked up, and each free hand
Is def’nit’ly walked on, for sure !

So shout it out to congregations:
None shall taste abominations !
Heresies thou shalt not eat
With legs above their feet

So gather, gather for the feast
Of insects, great and small.
They’re pure and kosher, ev’ry beast:
Six-leggèd, one and all !

 

 

The Sheriff of Chelsea

Thomas More
Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger

The Sheriff of Chelsea

What a bastard,
What a bastard,
What a bastard: Tommy More.
Saint he is, exemplar fellow,
Philosophical and mellow,
But no pussy lib’ral yellow;
Heretics, he is the law !
Not a bit like Tommy Wolsey,
Tommy More will hear each proles plea;
Takes their lives to set their souls free –
He’s the Torture Chancellor.
Got a Bible ? What’s it chattin’ ?
Better be in God’s-own Latin;
If it’s one Bill Tyndale’s shat in,
You are for the stake, for sure.

A Malady of Arms

Swatch
The Arms of Sir Swatch of Wristwatch

 

A Malady of Arms

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight:
His scale-mail always polished bright,
Charging headlong into battle,
Stalling left and swooping right
To circle round and dive again –
His wind-filled cloak, his flying mane,
His sword as sharp as any talon,
Raining over foes with death
To make their sabres rattle.
He also had a fiery breath
From quaffing claret by the gallon.

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
Yet his coat of arms would dishonour a sergeant:
Not for him a griffon argent,
Nor a wyvern passant gules
His blazon, rather, came a cropper,
Listing not a battle-stopper,
But a shield befitting fools:
‘Azure, a mallard with head vert,
Naiant contourny proper’.
Oh, how that blazon hurt !
A green-headed duck upon a blue ground,
Swimming the wrong-way round.

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
Though he bore much wit from his brothers-in-sword
Who rebuked his arms with much delight –
“It seems our Drake bethinks he a lord:
For look: Sir Luke, by his shield, is a Duc !”
Sir Lucas would curse “That’s just my luck,
To share a name with so artless a bird.
I’m one quack away from a chicken’s cluck !
What forebear had I who was so absurd
That such a pitiful nickname stuck ?
It should be a lion or a viper-snake,
Or a dragon – then they’d bloody quake !
But no, I’m a Drake – I’m a ruddy duck !”

 

 

A Malady of Arms – The Herald’s Cut

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
But never one for courtly prattle.
Back at home, he spread his wings
Across his mountainous estate,
And hunted game and sheep and cattle,
Anything to fill his plate.
Never one for kissing rings,
Or hearing yet again the jest
The ladies made at his family crest,
So he’d retreat to his hilltop clouds
Away from kings and madding crowds.
Depressed, he’d often spend his days
Within his keep, atop his gold,
Asleep against the winter’s cold
As jealously he’d guard each chattel.

 

 

The second poem is an early verse which I had to cut, so I thought I’d include it here on the B-side.

Can I say how much I hate the language of heraldry – write in in English, or write it in French, but this weird Norman-middle English hybrid is…well, come to think of it, it’s the kind of snobbery we’d expect from people who still think that coats of arms matter. I love them for their history, but we’re not living in history.

The facing-right bit is rare. Since most knight were right handed, they held their shield in their left hand, so for the charge (animal) to be looking forwards, it has to face to the left. Fine for in battle, but otherwise looking like it’s facing backwards, and possibly retreating !

Aves Unblazoned

Shield
Shield of the Swifter family

 

Aves Unblazoned

There are many birds more beautiful
Than pigeons, ducks or crows,
But all these three are dutiful
In holding long their pose.
The kingfisher is but a blur,
The swift is like its name –
So why does heraldry prefer
The skittish to the tame ?

So lazy is the nightingale,
It sleeps the sun away –
Not like the busy hen or quail,
Who forage all the day.
And peacocks strut with tails shut
Yet still dress to the nines –
So why do seals all bear a glut
Of eagle-based designs ?

The dearth of birds, from rooks to crakes,
Is witness of malaise –
Instead, they turn to myths and fakes,
And let the phoenix blaze.
No herald’s crest shows blushing breast
Upon its unpecked field –
The cuckoos cannot reach this nest,
They’re all shooed off the shield.

The herring gull is widely known,
The puffin is a star,
An ostrich or a penguin shown
Would resonate afar,
There’s no excuse to make no use
Of all the vulture’s charms –
It’s time to loose the humble goose
Upon the coat of arms.

 

 

Ah heraldry, both endlessly fascinating and incredibly unimaginative.  The ‘seal’ in the second verse of course refers to a wax-based document authenticator, and not to a walrus, though full credit to Madeira for using a pair of monk seal supporters (it would be nice to think that one of them was female).

Also, honourable mention to Whitby for showing three ammonites, even if they did look more like Chelsea buns.  Alas, they were later changed to coiled snakes to tie in with the just-so story to explain the presence of the fossils, but coats of arms have always been appallingly bad at science.