WordPress had a midweek Photo Challenge this week, asking us to post pictures of where the inspiration for our blog comes from. Since I can’t think of any way of taking a photo of the inside of my head I offer this tale instead…
“…. ‘the lone and level sands stretch far away’,” finished Shelley. He looked proudly round at the others. “It’s called Ozymandias,” he said. “What do you think?”
He was at a meeting of Inkstanzs, a Poets’ Group who met once a week to read to each other, to encourage each other and to provide positive feedback to each other. In reality it was a chance for each of them to feel happy if they’d written something good, and miserable (which for a poet is almost better) if they hadn’t.
“What’s an “antique land”?” asked Wordsworth.
“Somewhere that sells souvenirs, I suppose,” said Keats. “Donkeys wearing sombreros, little models of the Vatican, T-shirts that say “kiss me, I’m Irish”, that kind of crap.”
“No,” said Shelley, “it means -” but he was too late, they’d moved on.
“Lord Byron?” asked Wordsworth.
“Couldn’t think of anything this week,” confessed Byron. They all nodded in sympathy.
“We’ve all been there,” said Keats.
“Yes, poetry is the toughest muse of all to follow,” said Shelley. “All Constable has to do is paint some eejit who drove his cart into a river by mistake and he’s made for life, while we sit starving for weeks trying to think of a word that rhymes with ‘onomatopoeia’.”
“Sam?” asked Wordsworth gently.
Coleridge raised his head from the table, where it had been resting since the meeting started. He was obviously very pissed about something, and obviously very pissed.
“Gobshite!” he shouted eventually. “Thick, interfering, inbred Porlock gobshite.” His head sank back onto the table.
“Er, very pithy,” said Byron.
“And powerful,” added Keats.
“One of your best,” said Shelley.
The head lifted briefly from the table, gave them a glare of utter contempt, then lowered again.
“Moving on,” said Wordsworth. “Emily?”
Emily Dickinson had jet-black hair, was dressed in black and was wearing black nail-polish. She was the world’s first Goth girl.
“I’ve written a poem about Death,” she said. This came as no surprise, she always had. She read it, sombrely. This time, because she couldn’t stop for Death he had kindly stopped for her. He seemed to the others to be her stalker.
“There’s more to life than death, Em,” said Byron, when she finished.
“Besides,” said Shelley, “we’ll all live on through our poetry.”
“Big deal,” said Emily. “I’d rather live on through my nineties.”
“Himalaya,” said Wordsworth suddenly.
“What?” said Keats.
“It rhymes with ‘onomatopoeia’,” said Wordsworth.
“There is no such word,” said Byron. “No one, ever, has climbed a Himalaya.”
Wordsworth looked hurt. “Why don’t you read now, Will?” said Shelley quickly.
Wordsworth shuffled his pages sulkily. “It’s a bit all over the place, but I’ll read it anyway,” he said. The poem was about daffodils. The others said it was ‘sweet’, though Coleridge muttered something that sounded like “Porlocks”, but probably wasn’t.
“That just leaves you, John,” said Shelley.
“Ok,” said Keats. “Mine’s called “Ode on a Grecian Urn”.
“When Death comes, to ashes I must burn
And be placed within a Grecian Urn.” said Emily gloomily.
“Er, mine’s not quite that dark,” said Keats. He stood, held his pages in his right hand, extended his left, and began:
“‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ -”
“Bloody hell,” whispered Byron. They all sat forward to listen.
On and on the poem soared, through the pipes and timbrels, the wild ecstasy, the Bold Lover who could never kiss, the heifer lowing at the skies, the maidens overwrought, right to the final “Beauty is truth” couplet.
There was a stunned, hushed silence when it ended. All of the poets knew that they had just heard greatness. All of the poets were far too jealous to let Keats know that.
“Not bad,” said Shelley, eventually. “But, basically, it’s just a poem about a pot.”
“Yes,” said Byron, “and when it comes to poems about crockery, we’ve already got the much catchier “I’m a little teapot, short and stout”.