Saturday, 15 December 2007

We Had An Empire Once

On the subject of Aegyptology, here are Wilson and Keppel and their "Sand Dance", 1943.

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Philip Larkin, "Annus Mirabilis", 1967


We had an Empire once... here is John Dryden's "Annus Mirabilis", 1666, making the best of the Great Plague, the Great Fire and numerous trouncings at the hands of the Dutch.

1 In thriving arts long time had Holland grown,
Crouching at home and cruel when abroad:
Scarce leaving us the means to claim our own;
Our King they courted, and our merchants awed.

2 Trade, which, like blood, should circularly flow,
Stopp'd in their channels, found its freedom lost:
Thither the wealth of all the world did go,
And seem'd but shipwreck'd on so base a coast.

3 For them alone the heavens had kindly heat;
In eastern quarries ripening precious dew:
For them the Idumæan balm did sweat,
And in hot Ceylon spicy forests grew.

4 The sun but seem'd the labourer of the year;
Each waxing moon supplied her watery store,
To swell those tides, which from the line did bear
Their brimful vessels to the Belgian shore.

5 Thus mighty in her ships, stood Carthage long,
And swept the riches of the world from far;
Yet stoop'd to Rome, less wealthy, but more strong:
And this may prove our second Punic war.

Those pesky Dutch, eh? Grrrrrr. There follow another 299 stanzas of blatant lying, nowadays known as 'spin'. Though no-one attempts the dignity of rhyme these days, not even rhyme as bad as Dryden's. Grrrrrr.


Here are the arms from the counter of the "Royal Charles", in the Rijksmuseum. The ship was captured in 1667 when the Dutch raided the Medway.

Blogista: Still awake?

Readers: No. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. None of us have read even this far, actually. Zzzzzzz.


Mad Dog said...

I don't really care about the lost Empire but Dryden's poem has a certain charisma despite the dubious rhyming (note to self: must read up on heroic couplets and related period stuff).

Chertiozhnik said...

I'd put my shirt on Pope or Rochester, but then I'm just a reckless wino.