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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Lines on the hubris of Boris Johnson

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IN A recent Spectator article titled The joys of a career change, one of our former Prime Ministers, Johnson, amuses us with a story of his jogging (vertical) and prides himself on his ability to learn and recite multiple lines of dactylic hexameter (also known as heroic hexameter), a form of meter used in Ancient Greek and Latin poetry.

He boasts of his achievements: ‘In 35 mins [of jogging] I can do the first 100 lines of the Iliad, the first 100 lines of the Aeneid, the first canto of the Divine Comedy and the whole of Lycidas. I am pretty much word-perfect . . .’

Great news, no doubt, for the voters of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Johnson continues: ‘I propose to fill this unexpected hiatus in my career with vast lucrative theatrical renditions of these great texts, in ascending chronological order. It’s going to be called A Totally Epic Performance.’

He evidently does not believe that being a member of Parliament is a career.

What will the man who was ultimately responsible for the lockdowns, unconditional support for Zelensky and the refusal to acknowledge the harm of the experimental injections, think when he recites these lines from the Divine Comedy?

Through me the way into the suffering city,
Through me the way into eternal pain,
Through me the way that runs among the lost.

Will he detect irony? I am sure he will not. 

To fill the wearied languid hours between his runs, I suggest it would be more appropriate for him to learn lines closer to home. Lines that mirror some of the devastation and loss his decisions have caused . . .

John Betjeman: Death in Leamington

She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the ev’ning star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa

Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have work’d it
Were dead as the spoken word.

Rudyard Kipling: My Boy Jack 

‘Have you news of my boy Jack?’
Not this tide.
‘When d’you think that he’ll come back?’
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

‘Has any one else had word of him?’
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

‘Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?’
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

When contemplating all future wittering of the plump Greek scholar, we should bear in mind Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and the words of Bassanio about his talkative friend:

‘Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search.’

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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