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

My Library, My Life

Photo: WHB . . . 2017

My Library, My Life

The best way to find out
About who someone is?
Examine their library –
No need for a quiz.

My library is big,
Just take a look.
What you’ll find in it
Is book after book.

My bookshelves are full
Of books of all kinds
I’ve scoured the bookshops
Made remarkable finds.

Books I have read;
Books I might read one day;
Books never read,
Just there for display.

Books bought on a whim,
Not ‘cos of need,
Some temporary fashion
My psyche to feed.

Milligan and Wodehouse,
Others quite scholastic;
Some books of value
Wrapped up in plastic.

Books from my schooldays
And courses of study
‘Duchess Of Malfi’,
Such tales that are bloody!

Books presented to me,
Complete with inscriptions;
D.I.Y books,
Complete with descriptions.

Books I have borrowed
With library covers;
Books now on loan
From other book lovers.

Dickens and Trollope,
Austen and Hardy,
Similar authors
With whose reading I’m tardy.

Histories, biographies,  
And Poets galore,
Who once I indulged in,
Like Rabindranath Tagore.

Pop-up books from childhood
And Sunday school prizes
Maps and old diaries
And other surprises.

Games, chess and bridge,
Whole sections you’ll find
On Yorkshire and China
First editions – unsigned!

A few spaces for books
which I’ve lent out to others,
Awaiting return
With or without covers.

Look close and you’ll find
What once filled my mind;
Many are mystery now,
Since my memory declined.

But, never-the-less,
I still love them all,
Or perhaps I just keep them
To decorate the wall.

Photo: WHB . . . 2017

Ancient ice

‘The Ice Fiord’ – Greenland Photo: WHB …2008

ancient ice
increasingly
encircles
as we move
silently
with stealth
into the ice fiord
hesitantly making a
zig-zag passage
towards the unstable
terminus
of the glacier
as it erodes
into the ocean’s edge

increasingly
smotheringly
enclosed by
walls of white and blue
immense
ridge-flanked
jagged-backed
menacingly still
a maze through which
the miniscule craft
threads a passage
towards the minotaur
the glacier’s lowering face
as it crumbles
tumbles
its fronting phalanx
fragmenting
with the occasional
sudden grinding cracking
turmoil
of yet another frozen offshoot
adding to the welter
the crowded pack of
new-born creatures
as the ice mass breaks and
calves
to join the myriad
of off-spring
in the ice ocean

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.