‘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)
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
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.
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 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.
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.
Photograph of Spencer at work inCookham 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