The Patchwork Pachyderm

‘The Patchwork Pachyderm’ … Photoshopped Collage:  WHB – 2017

The PATCHWORK PACHYDERM

 Six blind old men went to a zoo
Which blind men do not often do.

They wished to find out more about
Their unknown world I have no doubt.

It was not easy so to do,
Especially at our London zoo.

They heard a creature give a bellow,
The trumpet call was hardly mellow.

They followed the sound until they came
To where were housed all the big game.

Determined to go where blind men go
They encountered a creature they did not know.

They ventured into the elephants lair,
Sensing this to be just where

They could discover just what it is
Makes this creature a walking quiz.

  *   *   *

 Tim fell against its side so tall,
Crying “This is a mighty wall”.

Jim touched its Tusk and gave a cry,
“It is a Spear I’ll not deny”.

Lim felt its trunk and began to quake,
“I’m pretty sure it is a snake”.

Dim touched a leg saying with glee,
“Well, this can only be a tree”.

Kim then reached up and touched an ear,
“This is a fan it is quite clear”.

Yim lifted the tail saying in hope,
“I’m almost sure this is a rope”.

  *   *   *

They thought, each one, that they’d found out
Just what Jumbo was all about.

So I ask you please, whate’er you see,
You don’t need a first-class degree.

Just never get your logic mangled,
Make sure your view is multi-angled.

The story of the SIX BLIND MEN has its possible origins in India, but the same basic story has appeared with variations in many different cultures.  I first came across it in the Chinese version.  The story in essence tells of blind men who, never having been able to see an elephant, decided to use their sense of touch to discover what sort of a creature it was.  On doing so, each one pronounced on the basis of their own, very limited,view.  Because each man touched only one part of the elephant, and based their judgement on what they had found, each came up with a different version of what they considered the creature to be like. 

So,  In turn, each blind man created his own version of reality from that limited experience and perspective. In philosophy departments throughout the world, the Blind Men and the Elephant has become the exemplar of moral relativism and religious tolerance.

So this ancient parable is used today as a warning for people that promote absolute truth or exclusive religious claims. It demonstrates that our sensory perceptions and life experiences can, if we are not careful, lead to a very limited understanding and interpretation of the nature of something or someone else.  With only a limited understanding of truth we can only receive a constrained version of reality.

There are several versions in poetic form of this story, to which I have added my own above, with the title ‘The Patchwork Pachyderm’ !

TERENCE – The Teachers’ Torment

TERENCE – THE TEACHERS’ TORMENT

Terence was so sensitive,
He was averse to life.
He was a pain to have in school,
A constant source of strife.

He wouldn’t play in any team,
He just stood there and cried;
Wouldn’t join in any sport
However much we tried.

He hated maths, he couldn’t add,
His spelling was appalling.
His writing was a dreadful scribble,
His language was quite galling.

And what he knew of history
Could be written on two stamps
And science and geography
To him were complete blanks.

And when it came to making friends
He wasn’t interested;
His eating habits were quite crude,
His food left half-digested.

He said that school was not for him,
He’d rather be at home.
His mum and dad, at their wits end,
Called it his Teddy Syndrome.

“OK, then let’s just try” I said,
“To see if this will work.
Let him bring his Ted to school
Might solve his little quirks”.

And so it did, I’m pleased to say.
There’s no more ridicule.
He carries Ted around with him,
Best teacher in the school.

‘Horace & His Teddy’ … Pen – PH & WHB

The Stable Door

‘Stable Door,Wiltshire’ (National Trust) . . . WHB – Pen & Watercolour, c.1990

THE STABLE DOOR

Red bricked  arch
Red rose adorned
Frames the entrance
Bringing enchantment
To meet history
In this secluded pile

Once-stabled steeds
Whinny in wonder
From their equine tombs
And boast of
times when
Bridle bit and brace
Had cause to adorn
These ancient crumbling
 Cobwebbed stalls

Long left to nature
And to fate
But now in trust
To a Nation which remembers
And celebrates
Its history

 

MIRROR! MIRROR!

WHB: Self-portrait – scraperboard . . . c.1955

Mirror! Mirror!
On my screen
Can I believe
What I have seen?

Mirror! Mirror!
Tell me now
I am lovely,
Take a bow.

Is this a selfie
I see before me?
Is this reflected
In my story?

Am I vain,
Or am I boring?
Look at me,
My ego’s soaring.

Go to blazes!
Tell me why
I’m not just
Pie in the sky.

Tell me that
I should believe it;
 At least I look
As though I mean it.

Because I feel
I have no guile
Doesn’t mean
I’m mean and facile.

My face my fortune
It is said;
If they are right
My palm’s well read.

But all is not
Quite what it seems,
What I see
Is in my dreams.

For I can tell
Just looking at me,
I’m not like
The me I see

Lost Dreams

Burne-Jones … ‘Reclining Woman’

LOST DREAMS

There ought to be a better way of living
To find catharsis in these twilight years,
But I am no misanthrope,
My dreams can give me hope
And help to wipe away my tensions and my tears.

So let me lead you now into my dreamworld,
A land where vanished wishes can come true.
Where life and love and pleasure,
And all those things we treasure,
Will follow from our final rendezvous.

A land where angels sing glad songs of romance,
Where the bells remember chimes they’d long forgot;
Where they now forever ring,
And with those angels sing,
And we at last are happy with our lot.

For my frequent dream is one of youth recurring;
A new start in life to live it once again.
To eliminate the stress,
To start again afresh,
And live my life devoid of stifling pain.

But the place where dreams are stored is fast receding,
A library of books once felt and read.
Now they will never come to life
Before they meet the pruning knife,
And all those thoughts they bred remain unsaid.

Burne-Jones … The Briar Rose – detail

Look At Him

‘The Blush’: Pen & Wash – WHB … c.2001

Look at him
He’s blushing
My mother said
To those starchy
Grown up guests
All seated
At the formal
Wedding breakfast table

Perhaps
Mistakenly Imagining
The unwanted attention
Would be cure
For my burgeoning habit

While I
So far unnoticed
Curled up
Claiming invisibility
Reddened even more
Shrank into my chair
Felt the burning heat of my face
Burn down through me
To a deep hole
In the ground beneath

Thus are our
Futures set on course
Another denigration
To be overcome
Another mental scar
To afflict my dreams
Another blandishment
foregone
Another battle to
Accompany me into manhood

e.e.cummings

Tu Fu

Tu Fu ( or Du Fu), who was born in Gongyi in 712 A.D., was one of the foremost poets of the Chinese Tang dynasty. He and Li Bai, are normally thought of as the greatest of all Chinese poets. He died in Changsha, China, in 770 A.D.

I print below, two of his poems, both, as the majority of his poems,  exemplify his intense relationship with nature, wildlife, and with the seasons, even amidst the turmoil of the times in which he lived.

(Both designs are my own pen and wash drawings in an attempt at capturing a Chinese style.)

A Spring View

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
… After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
… I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

A View of Taishan

What shall I say of the Great Peak? –
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night.
…I bare my breast toward opening clouds,
I strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold
All mountains in a single glance?

The HARE

‘The Hare’ . . . Watercolour – WHB : 1987

In his refuge

As the sun sets

The hare

Waits;

Dusk

Is its hour, 

Its time to brave

The beagle’s

Bark and

Bitter bite

To leave his form

And risk

Life again –

For

Continuity. 

The Morning Sun

 
Morning Sun’ … Pen & Wash – WHB. 2017

When the morning sun

Burns through the dusk

Of the night’s demise

And at last

The backside of the night

Is breached

A new day is born

And morning introduces its prospects

Promising a fresh start

A renewal of hope

Countermanding

Yesterday’s disappointments

And the night’s terrors

Now bringing a sense of peace

A stillness

Allowing strength to gather

And defy the uncertainties

Of a new day.

The Dome of St.Paul’s Cathedral, London

Dome of St.Paul’s … Pencil – WHB – 1958

The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, is an incredible structure, a true work of art in the sense of it being both lovely to look at and requiring incredible precision and workmanship in the design and the construction.  Sir Christopher Wren, principal architect, originally produced several different designs for his dome before eventually settling on the one we have today, and of course he used a team of architects, who, through seemingly endless discussion, trial drawings, modelling, and debate, eventually produced this, certainly one of the greatest glories of London. (See photograph below).

From 1710, when the present cathedral was completed, until 1962, St.Paul’s Cathedral was London’s tallest building. 

The dome of St.Paul’s is built in 3 sections (see side section view below) …

Stage 1: To the Whispering Gallery;  259 steps.  Circles the dome’s interior at 30 metres above the floor of the cathedral transept.

Stage 2: Further up to the Stone Gallery; another 119 steps at 53.4 metres above the ground.

Stage 3: To the Golden Gallery, reducing in size as we get higher .  This runs around the highest point of the outer dome.  It is 85.4 metres (280 ft) from the cathedral floor below and there are another 150 steps to climb to reach it. 

That is a total of 528 steps in all!

Having made the journey to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral only once in my lifetime, and having also once climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which claims to have the tallest dome in the world, I found it interesting to make some comparisons between these two domed buildings.

St.Peter’s, Rome, has a height of 448 feet (or 136.5 metres) to the top of its cross.  It has 551 steps from the floor of the cathedral to the top of the dome

St Paul’s, London, is 365 feet (or 111 metres); It has 528 steps from the ground floor to the top of its dome.

FOOTNOTE:

On the basis of these figures, I calculate that the average height of the steps of St.Peter’s is approximately 8 inches, whilst the steps of St.Paul’s have an average height of about 8 1/2 inches.  So with St.Paul’s having 23 fewer steps to climb, but each one requiring your foot to be raised an additional ½ inch, which steps are the easier to climb?  . . .  AND ANSWER CAME THERE NONE!


There are several videos on YouTube which will take you up and down these steps to the Dome of St.Paul’s and which give panoramic views of London from the top.