Inspired by these particular lines, I've written a poem for Simon Armitage.
One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
(With apologies to poor old Gray and his 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'). I've kept some of the original lines (with a tiny change) and the iambic pentameter.
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
Alone we drank the bitter dregs of pain,
From this bleak place we all must go away
Abandoned by him for whom we came.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
Si, for thy sweet words we all caught colds!
Honeyed words mean naught when oaths haply take flight
A promise from a poet us despoils.
Let not Ambition mock our useful toil!
The poetaster, ARMITAGE take heed
Legs ache; thy feet, one trusts, are one vast boil!
Think of thy faithful lest no more they read.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
With hearts aflame and hampers full of nosh
Came three Map Twats, one more with JO, Ben's wife.
In dark and age shoulds't thou now fear my cosh!
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Shall some wag say in mirthless northern jest
He'll truly rue the day he e'er was born
Lines to 'scape our fury need be his best.
There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
Lies POETASTER, heeding not our thirst
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
Afore ye wake let buzzards eat you first.
Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
ARMITAGE scoffs at fame, and sales, and trust,
While drunk on fumes thy congregation yawn,
And vow 'No more our lucre, 'twould be just'.
As you've probably worked out, Armitage disappointed us. We went to his reading in Mytholmroyd, which was sheer delight: excellent poems, good banter, warm white wine. I took some pictures, which I'll post on Tuesday when I'm back with my own computer.
On Saturday, Cynical Ben had arranged a picnic for Armitage along his Pennine Route way, as he suggested. Two more poetry fans were there, and mighty good company they were as we waited for three hours, cheering on the labouring cyclists as they staged private Tours de Lancashire, drinking beer and fantasising every more baroque accidents which might have befallen our lyrical hero.
Alas, three hours is enough even for the hardiest poetry fan and we trudged wearily home, perhaps musing on Catullus's words, slightly changed: 'the words of a poet should be written in wind and running water'. From now on, I'm sticking with Andy McNab.
I've just thought - perhaps he's been swallowed up by the same black hole that's claimed by errant and elusive MP, Paul Uppal?
Then we went to Manchester to drink Hawaiian cocktails in honour of Jo's birthday. Which was nice. On the way, we saw some of the fighting Mancunian spirit I admire so much. Passing three police vans dealing with a pub brawl, I noticed a woman bleeding profusely from the huge cuts on her arm (probably from a pint glass). Pained and wounded as she was, she clung on to her cigarette for dear life. I salute her.