Tuesday, February 07, 2006
As The Tories Turn Republican And The Diana Conspiracy Theories Multiply, Pity The Poor Queen, Stuck With The Poetic Admiration Of Mr Andrew Motion
When it comes to poetry, I am a MacCaig and Larkin man, with a sneaking admiration for the surreal word-play of Mr Ivor Cutler and the nonsense verse of Mr Spike Milligan. Indeed, the recent debate on the letters pages of Scotland on Sunday about the existence of porridge drawers in the sideboard of Miss Clarissa Dickson-Wright's memory caused me to recall the late Goon's eternal tribute to the Scottish national breakfast.
"Why is there no monument/To Porridge in our land?" Mr Milligan wrote, "If it's good enough to eat/It's good enough to stand!/On a plinth in London/A statue we should see/Of Porridge made in Scotland/Signed, 'Oatmeal, O.B.E.'".
In times of trouble, I reach for The Quangle Wangle's Hat, by Mr Edward Lear, particularly the verse which mentions: "the Pobble who has no toes/And the small Olympian bear/And the Dong with a luminous Nose/And the Blue Baboon, who played the Flute/And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute".
By contrast, the work of the Poet Laureate, Mr Andrew Motion, leaves me cold. Mr Motion recently advised that children should be encouraged to read Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Charlotte Bronte, Dickens, Eliot, James, and - most worryingly - Ulysses, by Mr James Joyce: an experience that would, most likely, cause them to run to their computer games and their bags of glue, never to read again.
In my view, children should be encouraged to read for pleasure, starting with Oor Wullie and the adventure stories of Mrs Enid Blyton, before coming to rest somewhere to the east of the literary Eden of Mr Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
As if to illustrate the dangers of Mr Motion's wholemeal diet, the Laureate recently published The Golden Rule, a poetic tribute to HM, the Queen, in which he alludes to "shrinking woods" and language which "bursts its bounds and breaks new ground".
"The fledgling words lay down a treasure-trove,
The speed of heart-to-heart accelerates:
The Golden rule, your constancy, survives."
It cannot be easy being the Queen at a time when your son and heir is making organic biscuits while the Daily Express speculates that Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington is about to announce that Diana, Princess of Wales was pregnant when she was assassinated by the Security Services, and even the leader of the Conservative Party is making guerilla raids to the far shores of Republicanism. But bad times are made no better by bad poetry.