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An unorthodox guide to the orchestra



Bird with detachable beak that pecks at the sky,
You eschew the pop in accents snobbish and shy.
Your classical songs are dry and raw,
Your thin white wines are sipped through a straw.
Be-dimpling faces above evening gowns, you are never bolder
Than when you are smoked through your long cigarette holder.

Cor Anglais

Black flamingo with a lump in your throat,
Crying from the graveyard,
Your plaintive soul will always float
In Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.


Your dark ebony body with the bling of silver keys
Is a rebuff to white privilege, and what a wheeze
When this tootling razzmatazz is used in jazz.
A tube of elegance in the woodwind section,
A liquorice stick in a boozy jam session.


– is a non-symmetrical brute with no passion burning.
Striped typewriter carriage that needs returning.
Your owner’s sidestepped grammar denies you are a flaut,
And is it your mouth he kisses or does he kiss your feet?
Mozart hated you, bade your elusive black heart break,
And would even if he saw you now – a petrified silver snake,
Whose hisses tremble and shake. Yet, scorning your advance,
His ghost would still compose itself and make you dance.


Abara youraself for Michelangelo,
Adanca witha gigolo,
Suck uppa to anya worm youa lika,
But adon’ta pick uppa a piccolo.


Assembled by a gunman on manoeuvres,
This is no weapon to serenade lovers.
Nor could Cupid draw his shaft from this huge quiver.
Its rumbustious shots pierce not the heart but the liver.


You were only a meat hook
Before Adolf (the Belgian) fed you up
And nourished you with cooking oil.
Saucepan-lid keys show you’re on the boil.
The straitlaced waiters respect you least,
Though Walton admitted you to his Feast.


Overgrown paper-clip from Brobdingnag,
Why has your administrative mouth evolved to sag
And look down on its own extending ladder?
It took pipefuls of plumbers to design the bladder
Of sound from your towel-rack tubing.
So how do you account for such bumbling,
When those who kiss your synthetic flower again and again
Press lips like professional bees and seek honey in vain?

French Horn

Supreme in Mozart Adagios, or perhaps in Mahler,
Of bandsman’s brass you are the noblest of the genre.
Smooth legato’s your raison d’être, despite an enjambement
Of stops.  Gourmets think they are seeing your golden croissant,
But Monsieur, it’s infra dig to expose
Those coiled intestines to the land,
Even though your shapely ahs
Invite that rendezvous with single hand.


From your Al Capone case you are rescued
And brandished like an amber nude.
How demure your sighs when the huntsman delights
In goading his fickle crop across your fishnet tights.
How coquettish your pizzicato
Plucked in bedspringed obbligato.
How innocent the long climbs, sizing
The long-bowed grace of a lark rising.
How like threads of sugar
In your higher register.
But how like an old woman’s groans
In the questionable region of your scraped lower tones.


Mature plump harlot with your seat near the ground,
Sullied uptight swan.
You only hum when customers feather from behind,
And turn you on.

Kettle Drum

Umbrella-bellied copper upside down,
With pigskin diaphragm so you won’t drown.
Even in calm weather you occasionally warn,
But you’re always on the beat in Beethoven’s storm.


You’re not only pretty, but ambidextrous.
Grand sailing boat on seas adventurous.
Dark princess with slippers of gold.
A white run of cards for tricks untold.

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Frank Palmer
Frank Palmer
Dr Frank Palmer is a philosopher and author. He was taught by Roger Scruton who was his PhD supervisor and during the 1980s was part of a thinktank of academics Roger formed to fight damaging trends in education. Frank’s last book was Literature and Moral Understanding (Oxford University Press).

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