The Excellent Wessex Event (When She Wedded Me)

Timothy Ades

‘The Excellent Wessex Event’ is based on the 1967 Film ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and a Betjeman Heroine. Winner of the Flamingofeather Long Poem Prize, 2013, it was published in Long Poem Magazine, 2014, with an Apparatus Criticus. “… a breathtaking, single–vowelled tour de force: ‘She fells these three fellers, Ms B. Everdene. / Terence weds her, then flees; she tells Peter: “Wed me!” ’ ” — Greg Freeman in Write Out Loud “Timothy Adès’ ‘The Excellent Wessex Event’ uses the Oulipo univocal lipogram omitting a, i, o and u to produce a narrative poem in rhyming couplets drawing upon the film version of Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. This one-hundred-line sequence comes with a set of multi–language footnotes all with the same impediment.” — David Caddy's blog, Tears in the Fence

Introduction to ‘The Excellent Wessex Event’

This univocalic lipogram won an, um, won a Flamingo–Quill (that’s almost right) award, six months, no, many months ago. It honours two icons of British womanhood, drawing on Thomas Hardy’s book Far From A Madding Crowd, or strictly on a film of that book which was famous in my youth, and on a suburban mini–saga of sport and courtship by an illustrious Old Marlburian, which harks back to my boyhood, south of London. What is a lipogram? It’s a form of writing popular with a Gallic group known as Oulipo, that is to say ‘Writing Possibility Workshop’, although ‘lipo–’ may go back to Plato’s old word for ‘omit’ … not, I might add, to his similar word for ‘fat’. A lipogram is all about having a constraint, such as omitting a basic unit (or two) from a particular composition. If you look at this paragraph, you won’t find any omission of A, I, O or U. An accompanying apparatus criticus informs of variants found in manuscripts, or thought up by scholars, and will cast light on any occasional obscurity. I did classics as a schoolboy, and sat through any amount of this kind of thing. If at any point you can’t follow my non–local lingo, why not look for a translation on my www.
The Excellent Wessex Event (When She Wedded Me)
(N.B. PRECEDENCE: THE PEER EXEMPTED) We exempt the respected Ned Wessex, the peer: He needn’t feel he’d be the reference here. Well, he weren’t yet preferred, when these verses were penned! Ex Egbert the Elder, three brethren descend. HERSELF MS B. EVERDENE, MS B. EVERDENE, Deep–zested, tweed–chested, the Western sweet–teen! Her best speed exceeded the fleet leveret; Her feet were the slenderest, tenderest yet. Wessex! Wells, Mells, the Cheverells, the Kennet, the Test; There’s Tess Debrett–Deference, there’s Jed the Repressed; The beech–trees’ green excellence shelters the sheep; Beetles nestle, well–fed; replete trenchermen sleep. Let the fevered seethe elsewhere. Remember the scene? She fells these three fellers, Ms B. Everdene. Terence weds her, then flees; she tells Peter: ‘Wed me!’ Peter’s pellet fells Tel; she weds Zebedee Tree. Let the reckless recede: Wessex needn’t be pestered. Well, her sheep swelled, blenched, sweltered; her bell–wethers festered; Her ewes needed helpmeets, the sweet shepherdess! Bergère légère, sévère détresse. They freed the pent breezes, they gentled her sheep, Re–fettled the helpless, defenceless Belle–Peep. They helped her mend fences, keep bees, sell her fleeces, Brew beers, wrestle steers, breed red setters, press cheeses. She entered her jennet, she swept three events: She wrecked, she sternwheelered the three–decker fence. When she screen–tested, Elstree’s behests were exceeded: ‘Three cheers!’ Terence yelled: yet she’ll never be needed. (When she entered the Beckmesser Best Verse Event, ‘We deem ye’re the best’ wheezed the letter they sent. ‘These verses were excellent — best ever seen: Yet we need seven fewer — ye’ve sent seventeen!’). She revered the Berserkers, kept her épées well flexed: She peppered the mêlée, mere nerds were de–sexed! When she vented her spleen, the events were extreme…! She fenced well; she effected the deeds we esteem. She led her eleven (three sevens less ten): We felt her svelte vehemence, we keen Wessex men. She served — the bets lengthened — she swept the next set: ‘Twelve–twelve: even stevens! They’ll strengthen the net.’ Deep red were the tresses her green eyes reflected; Red–eyed, tremble–cheeked the wet men she’d rejected. She jested, she bested me, 17–3! Strength, speed, perfect deftness, Ms Everdene B. MR EVERDENE (he’s her begetter: he engendered her.) Mr Everdene’s seedbeds: well–weeded, well–dressed! He’s served me the genever, fresh–peeled the zest. ‘Seven bells!’ bleeps the ether. The Beeb tells the News: Kew’s new helter–skelter. Pelé meets Henley crews. We’ve smelt, these few weeks, Mr Everdene’s herbs: We’ve spell–checked (he’s the expert!) Perec’s e–less French verbs. He’s helped her ‘self–reference,’ yet nevertheless Kept secret the preference she’ll never express. He ‘respects’ Bells Yew Green, he ‘prefers’ Peterlee, Where the tenement–dwellers resettled, felt free. ‘Remember’, he stressed, ‘the best verses extend, Yet resemble, the precedents better men penned.’ [Theme: ‘Greensleeves’] He’s the Verderers’ Verger, he re–elmed The Glebe, Re–nested the egret, re–crested the grebe. He re–elvered the Exe, when her nether emergence Went eel–less. ‘We need fresher, greener detergents!’ The week when dense kex–weed enfeebled the Trent, (Even newts were perplexed!) he’s the geezer they sent. He metered the elements, tested the presence, Tended reed–beds, dredged trenches, expelled the excrescence. He let eels beget elvers: they revelled, went legless! Wrens, tree–creepers, greylegs, he never left eggless. He preserved the West Erg, where the Ténéré tree Met her Meddler. Meseemed he’d preserve even Me. THE PLEDGE [Sennet.] The Evercreech Levée! Green–belted her dress; Sheer–selvedged, her neckleted red–freckledness. We went there; the fenderless Edsel relented; She seemed pre–selected, her cheeks smelled sweet–scented. Well–heeled Wessex vespers! The well–tempered keys! The nerveless resplendence! The strength next the knees! We’ll let Messrs Sleepeezee pre–test the bed, The pelmet, the tester, the sheets, WHEN WE WED! The deckle–edged letters, the speech, the set jest, The new, well–hedged nest–egg (she’s pledged me the nest!); The leek–green Welsh dresser, the cleverest shelves Where the bent Penney’s rejects re–centre themselves. The SwebCentre’s deep–freezer–chest sets the scene; Crested Berkertex bed–sheets, we’ll sleep strewn between. There’ll be Everest fenêtres: the bevel’s recessed: Le vent ne pénètre, when the lever’s depressed. HERE’S THE STEEPLE [Enter the celeste, etc. Sweet glees] Yestereven the Western defenders were here: St Keverne, St Erney, St Clether, St Cleer. We feel we’ve repented whenever we’ve erred; They’ll bless the deep bed, get the sentence deferred. Presents! Here’s The Red Desert, Steele, Sterne, Stephen Spender, Ted Dexter, Pete Seeger, The Creep, The Pretender. Let’s get the blend perfect! The Reverend, the bells! … Elder Dempster! Three Weeks! Bêches de Mer! The Seychelles! WE NEVER EXPECTED THE EVENT’S REPELLENT END… She SPEWED crème de menthe, MESSED her velveteen breeches, She DRENCHED her three nephews, prevented the speeches. Ms JEZEBEL Everdene’s never been wed: She’s rendered me REDELESS — the new ETHELRED! Yes, she wended, went west, she bereft me, defected, She schlepped, de–selected, she left me dejected, Yes, she expleted, reverted, depleted, DESERTED THE BED! She dwells where the Menderes enters the Med.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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M Sweeney by Timothy Ades

Timothy Ades

These jests never preceded ‘The Excellent Wessex Event’: they weren’t needed.
Per: Messer
French Verse:
. . . Sweeney entre les merles
(See Mr T.S.E.’s “The Seven Septets.”)
. . . Sweeney entre les merles,
les merles et merlettes,
merlettes et merlesses,
perles, merles femelles. . .
et Sweeney, pêle-mêle,
se révèle près d’elles!
Gegen entgegengesetzte Sterne
strebt der edelste Held
selbst vergebens.
Entered Here . . .

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Lipograms from Stratford–on–Avon by Timothy Adès

Timothy Ades

by a glorious Bard

Let’s see whether he needed the letter e

XVIII Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Comparing you with a day possibly in July or August

I’ll put you up against a balmy day…
You win on looks. Not cold, and not too warm.
Winds cut up rough with darling buds of May;
A two–month contract can’t supply much balm.
Dog–days in August turn to burning hot,
Or may contrarily grow all too dim;
And all fair fowls fall foul of you–know–what,
Thrown by bad luck, or sunspots, out of trim.
But your hot days will last and last and last,
Maintaining tiptop form with full control;
Nor shall morticians brag of shadows cast
Across your path. My words shall grow your soul.
Humans may gasp and gawp, unstoppably:
I sign this gift, your immortality.

This was published in Acumen.

XXX When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,

Writing Off Past Pains

Now and again I sit in soundproof thought
And summon up (Proust’s parrot–cry) things past:
I sigh for lack of many things I sought:
Updating pains, I mourn for hours I lost.
I flood my thirsty ducts, that drown forlorn,
For staunch amigos hid in mortal night,
And cry for sorrows long ago outworn,
And moan my loss of many a long–lost sight.
I’m sad at what was sad, though now it’s not,
Start listing pains untold and pains unsaid,
Accounting still for many a sold–off lot,
And pay again, as if I hadn’t paid.
But oh, mio caro, if I think of you,
All loss is null and void, all sorrow too.
I From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,

With Your Good Looks, What About a Child?

Good–looking folk and animals should pup,
Immortalising rosy–blooming glory.
Maturing, I’ll pass on, I’ll go paunch–up,
And my young sprog will carry on my story;
But you contract your troth with inward look,
Nourish your glow with autophagic food,
Drying to scarcity your bounty’s brook,
Your own worst hitman, doing harm, not good.
What! You, this world’s outstanding work of art,
You, proclamation of a coming Spring,
Bury in your own bud your major part,
Wasting good stuff, soft churl, by niggarding!
For our world’s good, nor tomb nor gluttony
Should scoff this birthright of humanity.
CXXX My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:

(1) A Gallant Comparison

My lady’s orbs can’t match two Suns at noon;
Coral, too ruddy, trumps my lady’s lip;
Snow shows my lady’s bosom slushy–brown;
Black wiry hairs top out my ladyship;
Carnations, snow or crimson, don’t abound
Around my lady’s physiognomy;
As for aromas, it was always found,
My lady’s just unsatisfactory;
Though to my lady’s larynx I’m in thrall,
It falls a long way short of musical;
Gods of Olympus probably walk tall;
My lady’s gait’s not astro–magical.
Don’t worry, though: my girl can still surpass
Any too crassly sold and broadcast lass.

(2) Perfect? Er — She’s Even Better

Her eyes resemble less the fervent sphere;
Her teeth: red–fretted? Redder the jewelled reef;
Steel nets, her tresses; stressed, her temples. Sere
December freezes: where’s the resplendent beef?
We’ve seen red setters, seen the egret’s vest,
Yet egret–sheen ne’er blenched her redless cheeks;
We scented Estée’s scent, then we regressed:
We smelled her scent, reeled senseless! Yes, she reeks!
Her speech refreshes me; nevertheless
Glees, even sennets, fetch me even better;
We’ve never seen the fleet feet *des déesses:
Well, when she steps, the pebbled weeds beset her.
Yet, yet, meseems, †mehercle! she’s the best:
The rest get bent creds: she exceeds the rest.

*French: des êtres célestes.
†See Terence, when rednecks express themselves.

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Deniz Otay (1993)

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Old Possum (1888-1965)

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Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

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Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91)

without using “e”

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,
Golfes d’ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d’ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;
U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides
Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;
O, suprême clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
– O l’Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!
A black, (a blank), I blood, U grass, O sky:
I’ll bring to light your backgrounds. Wait a bit.
A, smooth black armour of a flashing fly
Buzzing around a vicious stinking pit,
Dark gulfs; (who?), fair camp-canvas, vapour-drips,
Alp-cusps, snow-kings and shaking fumitory;
I, crimsons, spat blood, luscious laughing lips,
Furious, or only drunk with saying sorry:
U, holy rhythms of a Gaian main,
Calm grazing-grounds of cows, calm brows and brain
That witchcraft furrows, mind-span that absorbs;
O, mighty trump, full-blown with wondrous chords,
Still voids for flights of worlds and spirit-birds.
O, big round O, viola-ray, O Orbs!

Rimbaud perceives the vowels as having colours! Some people perceive musical notes, or musical instruments, in that way: the technical term is synesthesia. These variations were added in 2020 in a blog written for the Rimbaud & Verlaine Society.

written by the meteoric young genius
X nights, E gulls, I blood, U green, O blue:
I’ll tell your origins in just one jiffy.
First, sleek jet corset of some flies which flew
Like buzz-bombs over sink-holes fiercely whiffy,
Dim depths; E, tents, or white condensing drips,
proud snow-crests, virgin kings, the trembling umbel;
I, crimsons, blood-gouts, luscious chortling lips,
Once furious, or drunk, but now quite humble:
U, holy rhythms of the snot-green brine,
Furrows incised on brows, whose chemistries
Conjure gold spells; quiet greenbelt strewn with kine;
O, mighty trump, full-blown with wondrous chords,
Still voids for flights of worlds or spirit-birds:
O, big round O, lobbed violet of those Eyes!

by the ne’er-do-well wonder-boy who stole La Mauté’s husband,

A black, E snow, J blood, U green, O blue:
My task: your backgrounds have to be revealed.
A, sleek black corset of a fly that flew
around a swamp malodorous, concealed,

Buzzy; E, canvas tents and puffs of steam,
Proud snowy crests, proud monarchs, trembly umbel;
J, purples, blood-gouts, lovely mouths that stream
Laughter of rage, once drunk perhaps, now humble;

U, holy groundhog throb of snot-green seas,
The peace of beast-strewn pastures, peace of ruts
Dug by dark spells on brows of PhD’s;

O, the last trump, full of strange brazen brays,
Mute tracts traversed by worlds’ and angels’ routes,
O Omega, those eyeballs’ purple rays!

by the whippersnapper from Charleville-Mézières,

A black, E white, I blood, X grass, O sky:
Here’s how the whole gang started. Wait a bit.
A, smooth black corset of a flashing fly
prancing atop an evil stinking pit,

black holes; E, canvas tents, condensing drips,
white kings, fierce glacier-spears, the cowslip’s shiver;
I, crimson, spat blood, mirth of lovely lips
Enraged, or tipsy, off to see the shriver;

X, cycles, holy throb of snot-green seas,
The peace of beast-strewn meadows, peace of grooves
That witchcraft scored on brows of PhD’s;

O, the last blast, blown with weird brazen brays,
Still voids traversed by worlds’ and angels’ hooves,
O Orbs, great Omega, viola-rays!

Thank that blatant makar, a faraway castaway at Harar

A night, X snow, I blood, Y grass, O sky:
How did that gang start off, now? Wait a bit.
A, smooth black thorax of a flashing fly
prancing atop an evil stinking pit,

black voids; X, canvas camps and foggy drips,
snow-kings, high glacial swords, a cowslip’s frisson;
I, crimson, spat blood, mirth of tasty lips
Angry, or tipsy, off to find a parson;

Y, holy rhythmic throb of briny snots,
Calm grazing-grass of moo-cows, calm of spraints
That magic’s drawn on brows of toiling swots;

O, mighty blast, blown hard with odd brass brays,
Still voids, tram-tracks of worlds and flying saints:
O Orbs, big Royal Orbs, viola-rays!

Arthur Rimbaud scripsit, scalpsit, slurpsit

A black, E white, I red, U green, Z sky:
What lies behind these items? Wait a bit.
A, shiny hull that guards a flashing fly
Buzzing beside an evil stinking pit,

Dark gulfs; E, fair camp-canvas, misty drips,
Alp-cusps, pale kings and lilies vacillating;
I, scarlet, spat red cells, sweet laughing lips,
Irate, unless half-cut with exculpating:

U, cycles, drums that grace a Gaian main,
Calm heifers’ pastures ; tranquil temples, brain
Adept at study, wrinkled by witchcraft;

Z, mighty trumpet-blast, replete with genius,
Vacuums where angels flit and planets waft:
Z, zigzag Z-ray, plump and purple Zinnias!

Extreme verses! We’ve kept the E, we’ve eschewed the rest,
we never needed them. We persevered!

E jet, E sleet, E red, E green, E… See
Whence these emerged! We’re exegetes: we’ll tell.
E, welded vestments the resplendent bee
Needs, when she seeks the sewer’s repellent smell,

Grey depths; E, wet sheens, essences, speedwells,
Ellesmere’s deep-freezes, Re per neve, tents;
E, belched red cells, the glee des lèvres belles:
She’s vexed… let’s see! She’s legless, she repents!

E, wheels, celestes, green meres where petrels breed,
Self-seeded beeves well-rested where they feed,
Experts’ meek temples, trenches hexes pressed;

E, endless sennets, revellers’ blended cheers,
The ether’s messengers, the seven seers;

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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