12 February 2010

To govern in poetry!

How to distinguish between a report written by the Literature Working Group and a report charismatically entitled “Thematic report on compensation orders etc”? (As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ‘etc’ that makes this a genius study in the aridities of civil service research styles…) The subject matter, certainly. One is wound up by the procurator fiscal and how they go about extra-judicial disposal of cases using Compensation orders and so-called ‘Fiscal Fines’. The other delves into the phenomenon of literary Scotland, references Glenfiddich, Inspector Rebus, Joseph Conrad and the Etterick Shepherd, my own beloved James Hogg. The latter also commences with a charming idea that ought to be rolled out across governmental documents – an apposite quotation, capturing the spirit of the piece. The Literature Working Group choose to give us this crumb from Frank Kuppner’s 'A Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty':

There are forty-three poets here travelling in a ferry
Designed to carry six passengers safely across the river;
One cannot help wondering whether this administration
Is as sympathetic to literature as it claims to be.

I like a dash of whimsy. A striking metaphor, an apt quotation, sundry literary or historical trimmings invariably enliven the scrivener’s papery existence. There is no reason, in particular, why we should insist on being so po-faced, technical and colourless in our public life. A morose grey is no more authentic or dignified than furious crimson, after all. We can blame some of this on something I’ve mentioned before – an instrumentalist snip which is made between florid rhetoric and ideals of substantial content. I say we’re impoverished. The climate change bill could have been anticipated by the lines from one of my favourite poets, the Jesuitical Jerard Manley Hopkins’ “Inversnaid”, which already adorns Holyrood’s wall of quotations…

“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness?
Let them be left,O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

Or Lord George Foulkes, introducing Labour’s amendment to the SNP’s alcohol provisions could cry Keats from the tribune…

“Oh for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
Oh for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim”

For some of you, more patriotic, Scottish alternatives will occur to you. (Note, I will deduct marks at the end of year assessment for any who only suggests Burns quotes. Although the Maximum Eck might purr as the rhotic phrases clatter about in his lughole, this is about creativity. Not birthing a tartan cultural ghetto.) Its time, my friends, to renew our tired administration, to govern in poetry. The Literary Group’s efforts have served as a pilot study - lets roll out the proposal across governmental work. Feel free to send your poetical suggestions to your MSPs, government ministers, clerks of the Parliamentary committees. Any sod in the administration foolish enough to make their e-mail address publicly available.

Oh and congratulations to the Literature Working Group. You gladdened this particular blogger’s cloudy day.

No comments :

Post a Comment