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Poems

The Man Who Was John Bull by Bill Newton Dunn (Allendale Publishing)

Here’s an ex-Highgate-resident’s well-researched book
On the Regency journalist, Theodore Hook.
He was songster and punster, ‘fast master’ of rhyme,
And the funniest prankster alive, in his time.
John Bull was his organ of satire and wit,
Though he scarcely admitted to editing it.
Snow was falling on Highgate: they all had to wait
When their Sage, their Panjandrum, their Coleridge came late,
From the Grove, down West Hill, to the comedy shrine,
Millfield Lane’s Ivy Cottage, to dazzle and dine:
Yes, to prattle and tipple, to guzzle and shine.
The host was Charles Mathews, celebrity mimic,
Big draw at the Garrick. Hook borrowed his gimmick:-
‘So inveterate (said he) was the wild element
(Hook was aping the Sage) in its fleecy descent,
Dr Gillman and I…’ They all laughed; then the bell
Craved silence for Coleridge (and Gillman as well).
So inveterate (said he) was the wild element …’
How they roared! It was perfect, one hundred per cent.
The King (George the Fourth) said ‘John Bull did more good
Than all of my Judges and Ministers could.’
For with barbed, biting comments and barely a bad jest he
Snagged and harpooned and lambasted Her Majesty.
Coleridge and Byron, and Sheridan too,
Reckoned Hook was a genius: so, reader, might you.
Hook unjustly succumbed, came unstuck: full of fun, but too
    trustful, a touch unsuspicious,
When his unscrupulous underlings plundered huge sums
    from the Treasury Funds in his care, on Mauritius.
P.S. Wait! This is wrong: it was Mathews, not Hook,
Who ‘pre-quoted’ the Sage, if you re-read the book.
And James Smith wasn’t there (wrote smash hits: only one’ll
Be mentioned in BUZZ, on the failed Highgate Tunnel),
When in Highgate, upstairs in a gardener’s cottage,
Old Coleridge waxed roseate in full anecdotage:
Hair floating, eyes bright, he recited and chattered,
Chucked forks at a glass, which he finally shattered…
Hook extemporised songs as if quality mattered
On Coconut Oil and on Mrs MacPherson,
The gardener’s wife, a respectable person.
Her husband and she practised husbandry (tillage),
Like crowds of BUZZ readers who live in the village.
Published in the Highgate Society Buzz, T. Ades, Ed.

Categories
Poems

'1948, A Novel in Verse' by Andy Croft (Five Leaves, 2012)

A Review published in Long Poem Magazine:
A book called 1948,
made of some eighty Pushkin stanzas,
by Martin Rowson illustrate,
riots of rhyme, extravaganzas.
The cover’s ruddy bloody garish
and Rowson’s drawings quite nightmarish,
obsessive as the text, but still, full
of telling detail, very skilful.
London Olympics, shocks galore:
spies and political skulduggery,
trade unions, left-wing mags and thuggery
and Orwell’s 1984.
‘A, b, a, b, cc, dd,’
it rhymes; ‘e, f, f, e, gg.’
Alberti, Attlee, Blandish, Blunden,
Brecht, Bulldog Drummond, Helen Gahagan,
Greene, Harlow, Marlowe, Lorre, London,
Sartre, Frank Waxman, Ronald Reagan,
Thirkell, not Churchill, Harry Truman,
all rhymed! – it’s almost superhuman.
I’m bound to ask: what rhymes with Pushkin?
Stravinsky’s violinist Dushkin.
(No triple rhymes, no terza rima:
I could have added Ariane
Mnouchkine, but that must be foregone:
no flagpole on this Iwo Jima.)
Pro-Russian Proms ‘have picked The Nose
to bring the season to a close.’
So here’s my chance to rhyme Onegin,
since these are called ‘Onegin sonnets’,
with Fagin, or Menachem Begin –
a donnish jest – quiet flows the Donets! –
He won’t be pleased, so please don’t tell ‘im:
he’s miles less mild than Bassa Selim,
the liberal enlightened Turk
in Mozart’s oriental work.
Anyway, as I said before, well-
constructed pacey period thriller –
Winston and Spiller thwart the killer! –
all based on Eric Blair (George Orwell).
Drain down that draught! Hurl hats aloft!
Hail, handicraft of Andy Croft!