- THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
As ordered by Zeus, in the ancient myth
He was courted by three Greek goddesses
For his adoration, each competing.
Hera, the most powerful, offered
To make him ruler of Europe and Asia.
Athena was by far the cleverest
Offering wisdom, and skill in battle.
Aphrodite, goddess of love, offered
Helen, the most elegant, desirable
Woman in the world, who had just married
The king of Spartan Greece. So that
Sealed the fate of legendary Troy.
- MY STORY
When I think back to my early childhood
And remember my mother, ready
To step out in her evening dress: bright red
Layers of chiffon, off the shoulder but
Always tastefully sophisticated.
How I longed to hold on, to cuddle her
For ever as she kissed me goodnight.
I am wistful of those times, even though
I was far too young to understand them.
It was the mid-fifties and my parent’s
Life choices were determined by the war.
Too many of their friends had died. People
Were struggling to rebuild their world. If
Sometimes, they wanted to let go and lead
The high-life. Why not! They had earned it.
The next generation: their children,
Saw elegance as dated. A reaction
By tired parents, hiding from a changing
World. In the late seventies I had just
Arrived in London. I visited my
Aging nanny, who I had not seen for
Twenty years. She took me to her local:
A bar decked out in 1940s glitz:
As was she, and all her friends. (She lost her
Fiancé in the Battle of Britain.)
They were living as if time had stopped:
Elegance had become monotonous,
As one of the privileged few, I had
Learnt how to talk and dress: to knot
A tie, pin a cravat, wear a waistcoat,
Collar studs and cufflinks, fold a handkerchief;
Buy shirts and shoes, judge fabric quality
And tailoring; to hold an audience,
Time a joke, take interest in others,
Impress a lady and even how to
Eat peanuts at a cocktail party.
Elegance could become shallow, even
I’d seen hippies in communes, trying
To build their Shangri-La. I wondered
What they’d do when they reached middle age
And found themselves in Dystopia.
Like many of my generation,
I went a step further, wanting to free
Others trapped by tyranny, poverty
Or ignorance. Some sought third world challenge;
Others tried to save endangered species.
I went to teach in the slums of London:
Inventing simple games that could unlock
Neglected potential; reviving minds,
Kick-starting disadvantaged children,
Saving them from hopeless isolation;
Applying design to education;
Digging channels back to the mainstream
Finding the elegance of a clever
Our generation had its own naivety.
A vanity of its own persuasion.
It took the slums and made them trendy:
The Docklands, Brixton a La Rive Gauche,
Industrial chic, inverted snobbery,
Chilling to jazz, swaying to folk-rock,
Being laid-back, multicultural,
- AN OLD TESTAMENT PARADOX
Each man is born ignorant, in ‘Eden’,
Loses innocence as the price of knowledge,
So strives to be good but, like Moses,
He cannot enter ‘The Promised Land’.
He can only show it to his children.
So what will the next generation do?
In its turn? What will elegance mean then?
One thing is certain. Like each one before,
It must make ‘The Judgement of Paris’.
Here’s mine. Don’t be seduced by elegance!
Choose wisdom and you will find true beauty
And the power that comes from within.
M R McBride