An Ideal Crony

ideal husband
A lobby card from the 1947 Hollywood adaptation of An Ideal Husband, artist unknown.

 

An Ideal Crony

Sir Robert Chiltern, Bart –
A plummy, scummy, bleeding heart,
Who made some dosh insider trading –
Suddenly his star is fading
When extorted by a high-class tart.

What ho !, his chums in high-up places
Shall protect him from disgraces –
Don’t let on, don’t make a fuss,
For don’t you know he’s one of us ?
So stiffen up the lips on both his faces.

So what, a sacred trust was sold ?
We’d do the same for thirty gold !
So call the playwrite with the sharp wit,
Sweep it all beneath the carpet –
No need that the voting plebs be told…

 

 

Sun-&-Planet Gears

telescope

 

Sun-&-Planet Gears

Take a reflecting telescope
And point it anywhere up in the sky
And what do you see with your all-seeing eye ?
Cogs and drums and springs and rope,
And the ticking of ellipsoid gears,
By distance squared, by lighted years.

But can you find between the lights
The constant-heavens’ clockwork soul
That’s somewhere in the blackest hole ?
We all are squinting through the sights –
From omega to omicron,
We seek the great automaton.

Alas, as mirrors have got clearer,
So the wheels we saw have blurred
As though the constant tick has slurred.
And just as we were getting nearer,
We misplaced our guiding stars
Amongst the lost canals of Mars.

 

 

Fresh Pantoums, Only a Shilling !

market stall
A Market Stall by Candlelight by Petrus van Schendel

 

Fresh Pantoums, Three for a Shilling !

Oranges, lemons, and citrons and limes,
Cockles and mussels and oysters alive,
Tatler, Spectator, the Post and the Times,
Parsley and sage and sweet basil and chive !

Cockles and mussels and oysters alive,
Burgundy, claret, madeira and sack,
Parsley and sage and sweet basil and chive,
Cottons and calicos – red, white and black !

Burgundy, claret, madeira and sack,
Currants and raisins, sultanas and prunes,
Cottons and calicos, red, white and black,
Ballads and broadsides and tuppenny tunes !

Currants and raisins, sultanas and prunes,
Mercury powder to kill all your nits,
Ballads and broadsides and tuppenny tunes,
Coffee for merchants and lawyers and wits !

Mercury powder to kill all your nits,
Books for the scholar and books for the squire,
Coffee for merchants and lawyers and wits,
Labourers, porters and servants for hire !

Books for the scholar and books for the squire,
Scrag-end and brisket and trotters and bones,
Labourers, porters and servants for hire,
Heather for good-luck and Gypsy-charmed stones !

Scrag-end and brisket and trotters and bones,
News of the morning and news of the wars,
Heather for good-luck and Gypsy-charmed stones,
Come see my wares from the far-distant shores !

News of the morning and news of the wars,
Tatler, Spectator, the Post and the Times,
Come see my wares from the far-distant shores:
Oranges, lemons, and citrons and limes !

 

 

James Somersett

copley
Head of a Negro by James Copley

 

James Somersett

“Granville Sharp the abolitionist and Lord Mansfield of the King’s Bench are well known, but the eponymous defendant is more of a mystery.”
                                                                                                                              – The Sunday Items

He ran from the court
To the door of his champion,
Slaved no more,
And he knocked on the door of his champion
To show he was free –
He ran from the court and he ran from our history.

Did James and Granville then
Shake hands like proper gentlemen ?
Did they embrace, perhaps,
In a quite un-English way ?
We cannot say,
For James is never heard agen.

Did he and Granville,
As they bid goodbye,
Look in one-another’s eye
And share a smile and knowing nod
That seemed to subtly imply
“We’ve started something here, by God !”

Maybe he died that very day,
Or lived another three long score,
Maybe rich, maybe poor –
He went about his way.
The last we see of James
Is at that door.

 

 

Obey in All Things your Masters According to the Flesh

haiti
Battle of Vertières by Ulrich Jean-Pierre

 

Obey in All Things your Masters According to the Flesh

When even Jesus shrugs his shoulders,
Utters not a word ag’enst,
And Paul is rooting with the holders
Over people bought and fenced –
All these chattels in their fetters
Must submit unto their betters.
God had cursed the sons of Ham –
So help yourself – he just don’t give a damn

And thus were Haitians much maligned
By France, the Pope, and even God,
(Who spat upon their Negro kind
And swore to keep them ’neath His rod.)
Till after ev’ry prayer had failed,
They struck a pact which countervailed –
It’s such a sorry state of works
When Satan saves and idle Jesus shirks.

 

 

 

Talk Like a Pirate

Long John Silver
Long John Silver by Robert Ingpen

 

Talk Like a Pirate

Curse ye, Robbie Newton !
Curse your lily-lubbered hide !
For thanks to ye, all pirates be
The yokels o’ the crimson sea !
We used to hail from Luton,
Or from Whitby Bay, or Morningside –
But now it’s said we’re born an’ bred
In Lynmouth, Lyme an’ Lizard Head.

From Foway to Zoyland, thar we blow
From Durdle Door to Westward Ho !

Ye scurvy-livered, timber-shivered blaggard, Robert Newton !
Ye turned us to a joke, to the folk that we be lootin’ !
Ye’d have us be a parody o’ peggy-leg an’ lock-o’-dread
Of parrot-shouldered patchy eyes fore’er a-lookin’ ’skance.
We used-a be the buccaneers o’ Buckin’ham an’ Birkenhead,
But now we’re jus’ the poxy-pillaged pirates o’ Penzance.

From Brizzle Dock to Davey Jones,
We curse your skull an’ cross your bones !

 

 

Shall-he Shanty

parrot
Jewel of the Amazon by Stephen Jesic

 

Shall-he Shanty

One man drifts upon a door –
Too far from home, too far from shore,
Without supplies, without an oar.
Or so I’ve heard it told.
Both he and raft, three days ago,
Were languishing upon the deck –
Now all the rest are ten below,
And he by chance escaped the wreck.
Instead, he gets to starve and stare
     At water, water ev’rywhere !
Beneath the fierce, unflinching skies,
He waits his death and hungry flies –
When a shadow crosses salt-caked eyes…
A figurehead in gold !

So weigh the anchor, hitch the stay,
I’ll blow you back to yesterday –
We’re all adrift and outwards bound,
An island’s waiting to be found.
So dance with the carambola,
Come to my isola of the giorno prima,
Ev’ry newborn gleamer.

One man drifts below a prow
Too far from home – but safer now,
If he can only climb somehow…
And so our yarn sets sail.
Up top, he finds no sign of life,
Yet down below are cages crammed
With birds, and beasts, and flowers rife:
As live as he, and just as damned.
A hold to behold !  All brought
     From out the land he sees to port.
But where are they who stocked this store ?
If only he could swim ashore,
To the island of the day before…
Ah, therein hangs a tale…

So drop the anchor, be becalmed,
We’re porpoised, parroted and palmed
In paradise, in distant climes
A long long way from Greenwich times.
So dance with the mola mola,
Come to my isola of the giorno prima,
Ev’ry shipworn dreamer.

 

This is based on the opening of Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before.