4 April 2021

RISUS PASCHALIS (1) Marcury and his swan

Once upon a time, long ago in the Urzeit, Christ Church ... or, if you prefer it, Cardinal College ... awoke to find a swan flapping noisily around in the small ornamental pond in Tom Quad which is known as Marcury because it contains a statue of Harmes.

It was in a thoroughly bad temper, which was strange, because, round its neck, it was wearing a neat and perfectly-tied white dress tie. 

None of the porters could do anything to persuade it to consider alternative arrangements. The Proctors, of course, could not be called upon for help, because they have no locus standi within colleges and, in any case, there is no Statutum de Cycnis in the University Statutes. 

So they had to call in an expert: one of the Swan Uppers who, every July, Up the Swans in the name of the Monarch along nearby stretches of the Isis. 

He thought he knew what must have happened. "Your stoodents been messing around then?" he asked the Head Porter. 

He got a very frosty answer. "None of our Stoodents 'ad anything wotsoever to do with this 'ere swan". "Wottt! cried the Upper. "You knows wot every one of your stoodents was doing every 'our of the night? Must be 'undreds of 'em. Pull the uvver one!"

The Head Porter, as upper sarvants sometimes do, got angrier and angrier. "You think I don't know where each one of the Stoodents was all through the night?" he thundered. "Don't I know where they woz all sleeping, and who wiv?"

(The English sarvant classes imbibe with their Mothers' milk the realisation that to employ a grammatically structured subordinate clause would constitute an inappropriate claim to gentle status. Wodehouse got Jeeves all wrong.)

The Upper realised that he had to change tack. "Wew" he said "Ow did it get in 'ere, then?" 

"Flew in, did'n'it?" replied the Head Porter. (The English warking classes, you will already have noticed, love to disguise assertions as questions.)

"Wottt!" expostulated the Upper. "Wiv that round its neck?"

By this time, the veins in the Head Porter's temples just south of his bowler hat were pulsating dangerously. "You think we admit improperly dressed swans into this college?" he raged.


(There exists an indelicate limerick which appears to suggest that, in at least one Tab college, "the swans are reserved for the dons." I don't know if any illustrative pictures exist ... by Tiziano, perhaps ... of Lord Dacre exacting condign vengeance from Leda's 'partner' ...)


Paul in Melbourne, Australia said...

Beautifully crafted, Father. Very nice blend of different registers. Mocking both. I recall in my younger days Maoists from Oxford who would attend trade union halls in London wearing cloth caps. They would mount the podium and announce in received pronunciation to the assembled workers: "I am a member of the Bwitish warking closs. The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is the vanguard party of the Bwitish warking closs'. As they had the correct revolutionary line, they were puzzled why the British proletariat did not follow them.

Not only are your postings very erudite, but it is always amusing when you slip into regional dialects, colonial dialects and sub-dialects of received pronunciation, such as the Mayfair of the inter-war years and Chelsea and Kensington of the 1980s ("perfectly awful").

It is a pleasure to read your learned posts, and enjoy the changes in dialect.

Anonymous said...

A regular WW Jacobs he is!!!