Monday, 13 August 2012

A Gold for language

Samuel Johnson said of Dryden, after Augustus's comments on Rome, that he found our language brick and left it marble. Where has 'Locog' left it?

We can perhaps pass by the use of 'ceremony', 'the performance of some solemn act according to strict form',

but who was it who not only coined that horror and misnomer, 'team GB', but obliged everyone from the BBC outwards to use it slavishly?

Whenever I hear 'team GB' now triumphantly cited by a politician, David Cameron or Boris Johnson (no relation, thank God), I cannot avoid thinking it contains a clear implicit meaning that some people are in the team and others are not. And we are not talking now of sporting teams. It's the modern updating of Mrs Thatcher's declension of the world according to whether one is 'one of us'.

The takeover of individual effort and triumph by officialdom and state is pretty blatant - nothing new there.

Fritz Schilgen 1936
And perhaps we should be thankful that it goes no further than a driving ambition to compell all school children to undertake two hours of competitive sports a day, to make them into what Eton made Boris Johnson is today, rather than just provide public sporting facilities for the nation at large.

Our future Prime Minister?

Now that the Olympics are triumphantly over, Dan Hodges, who describes himself as 'a tribal neo-Blairite', supporter of John Reid and David Blunkett, voter for Boris Johnson, has some team reflections. He writes, in his Daily Telegraph blog, with, apparently only half his tongue in his cheek (it doesn't look as if that's where he usually keeps it):

And so they return. Slipping home under cover of darkness, casting furtive glances over their shoulders lest they be spotted by the final nocturnal Olympic revellers, they are back amongst us. The London 2012 naysayers.

But now, as silence falls across the Stratford Stadium, whither the Harpy’s cries? Are they too ashamed? Too scared? Or do they think we have all forgotten?

Never. The last two weeks have brought the nation, indeed the world, together. And now is neither the time nor the place for the extended Olympic family to be roaming around, meeting [sic] out summary justice to the 2012 Quislings.

Or 'Never, never, never', as one of his perhaps other multi-political-cultural heroes might have put it.

Will we be dealing with these naysayers by putting an London Olympics Triumph Denial Act on the statute book? No doubt his erstwhile great leader would support it.

Does he know what a harpy is - 'a rapacious, plundering or grasping person' - sounds moree like the infamous International Olympic Committee to me. And 'whither' their cries, or 'whence' - or even, if he wished, 'wherefor'? Perhaps they have become directed missiles.

He doesn't know the difference between 'meet' and 'mete', but does he know what a Quisling is, or was? Boris seems the better candidate for the description, especially given the slighly embarrassing Nazi associations of the early revived Games. I hasten to add that I don't mean to imply that Boris is a Nazi.

Yet the whole Olympic presentation (the 'ceremonial' bit) seems to have been infused with strange misreferencing of our past. (Maybe that's a required quality for the 'modern' Olympics, Clio and Euterpe both, perhaps the whole band.)

So we could have an opening pageant of our national history that struck many popular chords, including the National Health Service, but, apart from that, gave no kind of acknowledgement of our imperial past that must have been formative in the inheritance of many competitors there.

But for Dan Hodges,

... they are in the minority. And in keeping with the spirit of London 2012, over time, we will come to forgive them. Forgive, yes. But we will never forget.

Well, some forgetting is easier than others.

My Spectre around me night and day
Like a wild beast guards my way;
My Emanation far within
Weeps incessantly for my sin.

‘A fathomless and boundless deep,
There we wander, there we weep;
On the hungry craving wind
My Spectre follows thee behind.

‘He scents thy footsteps in the snow
Wheresoever thou dost go,
Thro’ the wintry hail and rain.
When wilt thou return again?

’Dost thou not in pride and scorn
Fill with tempests all my morn,
And with jealousies and fears
Fill my pleasant nights with tears?

‘Seven of my sweet loves thy knife
Has bereav├Ęd of their life.
Their marble tombs I built with tears,
And with cold and shuddering fears.

‘Seven more loves weep night and day
Round the tombs where my loves lay,
And seven more loves attend each night
Around my couch with torches bright.

‘And seven more loves in my bed
Crown with wine my mournful head,
Pitying and forgiving all
Thy transgressions great and small.

‘When wilt thou return and view
My loves, and them to life renew?
When wilt thou return and live?
When wilt thou pity as I forgive?’

‘O’er my sins thou sit and moan:
Hast thou no sins of thy own?
O’er my sins thou sit and weep,
And lull thy own sins fast asleep.

‘What transgressions I commit
Are for thy transgressions fit.
They thy harlots, thou their slave;
And my bed becomes their grave.

‘Never, never, I return:
Still for victory I burn.
Living, thee alone I’ll have;
And when dead I’ll be thy grave.

‘Thro’ the Heaven and Earth and Hell
Thou shalt never, quell:
I will fly and thou pursue:
Night and morn the flight renew.’

‘Poor, pale, pitiable form
That I follow in a storm;
Iron tears and groans of lead
Bind around my aching head.

‘Till I turn from Female love
And root up the Infernal Grove,
I shall never worthy be
To step into Eternity.

‘And, to end thy cruel mocks,
Annihilate thee on the rocks,
And another form create
To be subservient to my fate.

‘Let us agree to give up love,
And root up the Infernal Grove;
Then shall we return and see
The worlds of happy Eternity.

‘And throughout all Eternity
I forgive you, you forgive me.
As our dear Redeemer said:
“This the Wine, and this the Bread.”’