Saturday, 25 June 2016

Pirates

I'm still reeling from the implications of the EU exit vote. It feels like we've walked the plank into infested waters! Funnily enough, I've been reading a book about "1956 - The Year That Changed Britain" (by Francis Beckett and Tony Russell). 1956 was a pivotal year though the book focuses mainly on the Suez Crisis and the foolhardy attempts of this country's political and military leaders to flex the muscles of empire one last time, attempts which ended in embarrassment and abject failure, but which sowed the seeds for much of the subsequent mistrust of the west by Egypt, Iran and Iraq.

An attitude that was beginning to sound anachronistic in the mid-fifties has become even more out of tune with a fast evolving world - but despite that, echoes of the "make Britain great again" refrain have been partly responsible for 17 million of my compatriots (and 67% of Blackpool voters) choosing to divorce themselves from the European Union this week. It may be democracy in action, but I am anticipating "2016 - The Year That Britain Shot Itself In Both Feet". I hope time proves me wrong. It really is no consolation at all that DC is handing over the tiller of the ship of state to BJ (or worse) to navigate us through the uncharted waters that lie ahead, but I'll leave it at that for political commentary... and concentrate instead on Pirates!


I've had some fun with anagrams of this week's theme: sea trip is a good one, as are parties and traipse, pastier, spat ire and spar tie along with the wonderfully evocative rat pies (plus its vegetarian alternative, tar pies). I wasn't so sure about tap risetip arse or it's rape although they could all have buccaneering connotations. I kept on looking to force out an anagram using art. Ipse art  was the closest I got - not quite embarrassment and abject failure as it did give me the idea for a poem (as you'll see below).

First, a bit of etymology and potted piratical history. The English word derives originally from the Greek πειρατής (peirates) via the Latin pirata and means a sea-brigand, literally one who attacks ships. No surprise there, though it helps date the origin of piracy to the 14th century BC, the earliest recorded exploits being those of the marauding Sea Peoples of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean at the start of a tradition that has been upheld by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Celts, Vikings and Moors (plus Cantonese and Japanese pirates in Eastern waters) - and all of this before the 'golden age' of piracy dawned with the European expansion to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Brigantines, corsairs, galleons and sloops plied the sea lanes of the Caribbean. Gold and silver bound from South America for Spain was the target of privateering pirate crews from England, France and the Netherlands. Doubloons and pieces of eight, the spoils of piracy, were shared among the marauding crews in a remarkably equitable manner - for many pirate ships were akin to democratic co-operatives, bounded by strict codes of honour despite the nature of their 'trade'. Treasure chests, treasure islands, blackbeards, bluebeards, peg legs, parrots, walking the plank and getting marooned are all the stuff of pirate tales. Life was hard and violent, stakes were high and few pirates lived long enough to enjoy the fruits of their plunders for they were usually either undone by other scurvy pirate crews or they were hunted down by the imperial navies of Britain and France, both of whom were engaged in an attempt to clean up and police the sea lanes.


Jolly Roger Hilton once described artistic endeavour as "a man swinging out into the void." Here they go then, in a sort of extended, mutant and swashbuckling Clerihew, setting off through uncharted waters on their voyage of discovery...

Ipse Art
Rene Magritte captained the fleet,
Georges Seurat stood for first mate.
Their challenge - to see if they could create
two sea-worthy barques fit to chart
unfathomed waters
in pursuance of great modern art.

AbstractionImpression, docked side by side,
were being made ready to sail.
Picasso and Sisley fettled the rigging,
their canvas was primed by Matisse,
while Toulouse Lautrec varnished the decks
and Dali and Dufy repainted the hulls
to splendidly surreal effect.

During this lull Paul Cezanne,
on hand for his culinary chops,
escaped from his galley to top up his tan,
while Gaugin the boatswain got comfortably pally
with swashbuckling Marc Chagall,
renowned for being rampant in the main,
and whose fondest refrain ran
"a dame in every port, a port in every dame."

Fred Hundertwasser was made quarter-master,
responsible for rations overall,
but Pissarro took charge of white spirit and rum
stored in clearly marked tanks
with the strict injunction that confusing the two
could poison the crew,
might presage disaster
and very well lead to him walking the plank.

Each ship had its parrot as custom dictates,
a Hopper, a Whistler,
who looked down from their yard-arms
heads cocked, beady eyed
and berated the efforts of any who slacked
with a torrent of foul-beaked cackling cries.

Came the day when all was ready at last.

With the first burst from the east
of a favourable breeze,
Magritte gave the word to both crews.
Manet and Monet hauled at the sheets,
the skull and crossbones unfurled from the mast;
Van Dongen and Ensor smartly weighed anchor,
while rooted ashore
Rousseau and Renoir cast all painters away
and both masterly state-of-the art barques
were finally loose
and straining to cut through the waves.


Hearties, thanks for reading. S ;-)
Reactions:

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too clever by half! Walk the plank!! (LOL)

Anonymous said...

Love this. The poem is so ridiculous.