David Eccles. Ranjit Bolt on Hilaire Belloc

Ripping Rhymes

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If, as they say, Fame’s but a vapour
Why should a bard put pen to paper?
He might as well sweep floors, broke stocks
Grow zinnias, or hollyhocks,
Or weave, or ride, or cook, or ski
Or do – well, whatsoe’er it be –
For all his efforts will achieve
When once he takes his final leave
And (as we all must) disappears
From what is called ‘this vale of tears’.
And yet, as we are taught at school,
Although this may well be the rule,
There are some poets who contrive
To break it, and remain alive
(I don’t mean literally, of course)
By dint of talent and resource
Beyond the grave, and still be read
Long ages after they are dead.
You wish to put this to the touch?
Well, Hilaire Belloc is one such –
As great a prosodist as sage,
Whom readers of whatever age
May dip into, at any page,
And almost think they might be pickled,
Their ribs are so sublimely tickled.
Unlike Matilda, I don’t lie,
As one brief verse will verify

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About the contributor

Ranjit Bolt is one of Britain’s leading translators for the stage. His versions of European classics – Corneille, Molière, et al. – have been performed in many major theatres in Britain and the US. His adaptation of Volpone in Trevor Nunn’s production was staged this summer at the RSC.

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