Punctilagogaloquociatude

dryden
John Dryden by Gary Brown

 

Punctilagogaloquociatude

Poor poor Johnny Dryden
Thinks that English is too English –
Wishes it could be more Latin,
Than this horde that he’s combatting.
But he’s heading for a hiding
If he thinks our mongrel language
Is a synonym for Latin,
Somehow ripe for reformatting.

Poor poor Johnny Dryden
Hates those final prepositions –
Keep them out, just like in Latin,
Else we’ll really let the cat in.
Always ready for some chiding,
He polices our transmissions
Should we stray away from Latin
In our ungrammatic chatting.

Poor poor Johnny Dryden,
Hates infinitives to split –
After all, you can’t in Latin…
Oh, to truly scholar that in !
But the mobs are over-riding
All his careful rules to bits !
Ripping off their hairshirt Latin
For their English shifts of satin.

 

 

The Clone of Beauty

pre-raphaelites
detail from The Bower Meadow by Dante Rossetti, Apple Blossoms by John Millais, Hylas & The Nymphs by John Waterhouse, Laus Veneris by Edward Burne-Jones and The School of Nature by William Holman-Hunt

 

The Clone of Beauty

So why did the Pre-Raphaelites have just the single face to paint ?
Did they all maybe share a model, or ideal, or a joke ?
Or were they merely moral allegories, underneath the quaint,
The playthings of a puritanic club of touched and airy folk.
Their lounging nymphs of languid myth are diaphanous deities,
Sometimes naked, always perfect, from Pompeii to Camelot –
But rousing such lacklustre lust, or any spontaneities,
These strangely-sexless sextuplets are gazed upon to be forgot.

These muses with the single face,
And even fewer flickers of emotion in their artful grace,
Demanding our devotion as they pose from Albion to Thrace.
Androgynous, without a trace of cleavage,
Under wafting folds of lace,
But then again, their cold embrace has little use for heavage.
At least their hair is big and wild,
Those flowing waves and ringlets piled in unexpected verve,
Quite out of place around a mask so English in reserve.
This Sisterhood of sylvan sylphs –
In pastels, primary and bright,
Or bathed within a golden light –
Are quite the finer sort of elves,
Perhaps the fairest of the fay,
Just waiting for a errant knight or shepherd boy to pass their way.

Or maybe just ourselves,
The gawpers in the gallery –
The hoi-polloi who shrug and stare,
And wonder why they have to share
A single personality.

 

I wrote this some years ago but dug it out after visiting the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  I had always assumed that the apinters made all the faces the same in search of an shared ideal of beauty, but I now suspect that the the similarities were in the flesh rather than the paint – the woman they chose as models already looked alike.  They also shared their models around, in every sense, and I don’t think these women did any modelling for more establishment artists.  Now, we just need a good investigation about the male models they used…

 

 

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, chummy, 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.