VERITY

Verity’ by Damien Hirst, Ilfracombe, Devon … Photograph … WHB – 2015

‘VERITY’ is the name given to a stainless steel and bronze statue created by Damien Hirst, the English artist, entrepreneur, and art collector. He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young British Artists, who dominated the art scene in the UK during the 1990s.

The 20.25-metre tall sculpture stands on the pier at the entrance to the harbour in Ilfracombe, Devon, looking out over the Bristol Channel towards South Wales.  Hirst lives close to the town. He describes his work as a “modern allegory of truth and justice”.  The statue depicts a pregnant woman holding aloft a sword while carrying the scales of justice and standing on a pile of law books.  Half of the sculpture shows the internal anatomy of the pregnant woman, with the foetus clearly visible. (adapted from Wikipedia)

VERITY

Pregnant,
Opened up, exposed,
Exhibit Number One

I am birth corroborated,
Prying eyes sated,
Privacy crushed

Paraded for the populace
To ponder,
To pity

They ogle,
Excoriate,
Turn witty

Solicitudes are rare;
Their taunts I bear;
Reproofs I must abide

And yet, I am the truth
About how it is
To be free

My brandished threat
Repays the debt
My innocence holds

My stance, defiance,
Thwarts compliance,
Demands a voice

But to keep hope alive,
Live long, survive,
I must be exposed

Must confront
The brutal sea,
The relentless incoming tide

No chance repose;
What end my woes;
Torment inside

My frightened stare
Torches the tides,
Seeking solace

Whilst emblazoned in light
Against the torrid sky
The world gawps

I must bear
The stares
And cry

I am torn apart;
My pain is there
For all to see.

In a world that demands
To know,
To know everything

The truth is there
For all to see,
To verify that I
Am VERITY

Poem by WHB . . . 2015 Copyright

‘Verity’ by Damien Hirst, Ilfracombe, Devon … Photo WHB – 2015

LINDISFARNE – Holy Island

Lindisfarne – Off the North-West coast of England in Northumbria

Below is a selection of sketches and photographs based on my previous visits to this beautiful historic and sacred island off the North Sea coast of England

The Ballad Of Beggar’s Bridge

This bridge, in a traditional Pack Horse shape, has remained intact straddling the River Esk near the moorland village of Glaisdale, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, for 400 years.   The village is about ten miles inland from Whitby, where the River Esk flows into the North Sea.
It is known as Beggar’s Bridge, and was built in 1619, by Tom Ferris, a local man, son of a poor moorland sheep farmer.   Having been turned down as a suitable suitor for his love, Agnes, by her wealthy land-owning father, Tom vowed to seek his fortune and to one day return to claim Agnes’ for his wife.  After many adventures at sea, Tom returned, now a rich man, married Agnes, and prospered, to such an extent that he eventually became the Lord Mayor of Hull.  The bridge, it is said, was erected by Tom as a memorial to his wife, and as a means for future lovers to cross the river without having to brave its often flooded waters.  The story, as it has been passed down, is a mix of fact and fiction.  The basic facts are essentially true, but the story, has become a local legend and has, no doubt been embellished over the course of time.

I have tried my hand at re-telling this story in a simple and traditional ballad style, the results of which efforts I give below . . .

THE BALLAD OF BEGGAR’S BRIDGE

He lived beside the river Esk
In a fair delightful dale
His story I must tell you now
A truly stirring tale.

Tom loved a lass of high estate
It was not meant to be
For she was of the Manor born
A lowly lad was he.

Her father disapproved the match
Tom was of lowly birth
No land, no money, no position,
Of very little worth.

But their shared love was sound and solid
So secretly they met.
They shared their passions willingly
But always under threat.

Poor Tom was restless and intent
To run away to sea;
He held fast to the thoughts that stirred
Inside him to be free.

He knew one day he’d win his bride,
He would not be gainsaid;
Beyond this dale there was a world
Where fortunes could be made.

So one dark night he set off late
To wish Agnes farewell
To promise to return for her
To ever with her dwell.

She lived beside the river too
But on the other side.
He therefore had to swim across
He would not be denied.

The Esk just then was in full spate
It swirled along the dale.
It almost took Tom’s life that night
He knew he must prevail.

With strength of ten he forged a path
Across the raging stream;
He dragged his aching body out
As if within a dream.

With his goodbyes Tom gave his word
That some day he’d return;
And Agnes gave her solemn oath
She’d wait for him in turn.

Tom took himself to Whitby town
And soon with Drake joined battle;
Against that Spanish fleet he fought
Saw off the invading rabble.

A rover in West Indies then
And piracy his game.
Plunder and pillage gave him wealth
And brought a kind of fame.

He felt that now he could return
To claim his promised bride;
Confront her father without fear,
With new found hope and pride.

And so to Glaisdale Tom returned
His roving days now past.
True to her word Agnes rejoiced,
Her hopes fulfilled at last.

They married soon and lived in bliss,
Or so the story goes.
Tom grew in wealth, in fame, in power,
Commanding all he chose.

Throughout the north he garnered fame
His name grew ever bigger.
Lord Mayor of Hull he then became,
Now a respected figure.

And when his Agnes died at last
Their story he declared,
Would with a bridge over the Esk
With all the world be shared.

A bridge to join the river’s banks
To help new lovers’ trysts;
A bridge secure from spate and flood
Which to this day exists.

The reason it’s called Beggar’s Bridge
No one is very sure.
‘Tis thought was done to prompt us all
That Tom was once so poor.

I Am Who I Am

C.L.Murphy

Words Can Express

Jerome Phelps

With a Little Distortion;

N.Anderson

No Need To Guess –

S.Matheve

My Face Is My Fortune.

The above drawings were created in the 1960s by four 10 and 11 year old pupils in my class at a Putney (London) Primary School.

In Love

When did the starlight happier seem than now?
The evening’s quiet, when so full of peace?
How does heaven seem so near to me
Now, when I have wished away my heart?

Why has the night so sober been?
Why has my mind been reason’s moon?
That this poor sun has felt so long a night
The bark of last year’s growth has now unveiled
A green and stripling age of mind;
Eloping with this redder, browner blaze
Of hopeful, living love.

The two paintings above are by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828  – 1882).   His model, who he considered his muse, and who later became his wife, was Elizabeth Siddal (1829 – 1862). 

Stop The Clocks

W.H.Auden … Pen & Sepia Wash: WHB – 2001

FUNERAL  BLUES by W.H.AUDEN

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Auden composed two versions of this poem.  This, the most popular version, was composed in 1938.  It was written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson in a setting by Benjamin Britten.  It is now frequently used in funeral services, particularly since It was widely popularised in the 1994 British romantic comedy film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

The pen and wash drawing above was made by me in 200. 
It is of Auden when in his sixties.

CLYTIE

‘Clytie’ Sculpted by G.F.Watts … Pen & Ink sketch: WHB

In the verses below, I attempt to express Clytie’s plight when she finds her love for the Son God, Helios, rejected, and she is committed to watch his daily flight across the heavens in his winged chariot .  Eventually she is transformed into a sunflower or heliotrope , condemned for ever to follow the sun’s movements across the sky.

C L Y T I E

As dusk takes over from the day
I stand on Helios’ shore and weep.

Light for my soul,
Lust for my life;
These no more can I strive to keep.

Yet there is hope because the night
Is followed by expectant day.
The sun will rise
With hope intact,
And I’ll revive my destined way.

The languid sun will lift at dawn
Over the shimmering tranquil sea.
It is my dreams,
My Holy Grail,
And promises new hopes to me.

The sun renews its daily task.
As Clytie, I still strive to meld
Lovers’ aubade,
Their serenade.
With this till dusk my life is held.

Time’s chariot, its path I trace;
Helios arcs across the sky.
Till evening ends
In blood red  gore,
And once again I die.

But then again the cycle breaks
When dawn extends to dusk its kiss.
It’s carmine clinch,
Crimson caress,
Herald again life’s feud with bliss.


3 Further Limericks

Photo by Jhefferson Santos on Pexels.com

A practical joker from Dundee
Would spike drinks with the greatest of glee.
Despite this indulgence
He got his come-uppance
When six viagra were dissolved in his tea.

He loved to play tricks on his friends,
But he came to a quite sticky end
When, unforetold by him,
His demise was quite grim –
He fell in a vat of pitchblende.

A knight called Sir Galahad,
Said,” How jolly I am and so glad,
That before I was virtuous
Solicitous and courteous,
I was really a bit of a lad.”

3 More Limericks

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

A bigoted windbag from Leeds,
Says words are more potent than deeds.
To prove he is wrong
I will stick a large prong
Up his mammoth rear end till it bleeds.

An obese old loudmouth from Crewe,
Who always knew better than you,
Found the encumbrance
Of his girth and circumference
Just grew and it grew and it grew.

6. Dame Edith Sitwell once said
Of the poems which loudly she read,
“I don’t like to be bragging,
But I’ve invented rapping,
I’ll become a renowned talking head.”


Stanley Spencer – A Happy Resurrection

Photograph of Spencer at work in Cookham Village … by WHB . . . 1957

Stanley Spencer, CBE RA (1891 – 1959)was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Wikipedia

The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A teasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Pram pusher extraordinaire
in the Village that lit up his life
inspired his vision
Trundled easel hearse
put to work in progress
To see, to feel, to breathe
destiny on the village green
The past become the present
resurrected in tranquillity
Life-lite under the churchyard yew
this moulded flesh – full featured
bringing joy from the stern grave
Life’s resurrection imagined
in hope and the churchyard
in his eyes and his pigment
Drawn and deified
Death and Resurrection as Spring
As buttercups in the greenest of fields.


The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A pleasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Stanley Spencer: ‘The Resurrection, Cobham … 1924-27. Tate Gallery