Hugh's Poem

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Hugh is reading a poem.

Hugh Underneath the bellied skies, Where dust and rain find space to fall, To fall and lie and change again, Without a care or mind at all For art and life and things above;

In that, there, look just there, No right left up down past or future, We have but ourselves to fear.

Stephen Hugh, you chose that poem. For God's sake why?

Hugh I chose it for a number of reasons, Stephen.

Stephen I see. The most important one being ... ?

Hugh Can I perhaps turn that question round and say "because it was short".

Stephen The poem?

Hugh That's right. I chose that poem because it was short.

Stephen And that's significant?

Hugh Well of course. With the pace of modern life being what it is, it seemed to me that most people just haven't got the time to spend on long poems, and this would therefore ideally suit the short-haul commuter or the busy housewife. This is a poem that can fit neatly into the most hectic of schedules, and leave time for other sporting or leisure activities.

Stephen So that represents quite a boon to the modern poetry reader?

Hugh Oh an enormous boon.

Stephen Well of course we're always on the lookout for enormous boons. And I presume it's reasonably safe?

Hugh Absolutely safe. This is a poem you could leave around the house in absolute confidence.

Stephen Excellent. Presumably though, there must be shorter poems than that one?

Hugh Oh good heavens yes.

Stephen Good heavens yes?

Hugh Good heavens yes. There's a poem by Richard Maddox called "Institutions" that I can read for you now, if you like?

Stephen Please.

Hugh Here is it. "Li."

Stephen That is short.

Hugh It's very short indeed.

Stephen Too short perhaps?

Hugh Possibly.

Stephen But I suppose that might just suit the busy senior executive who can only snatch a moment between meetings, and so on?

Hugh Well that's right. That's certainly the market that Maddox was aiming for.

Stephen Now at about this time, many people are going to be thinking about their summer holidays. Are there any poems that you might recommend to a family going on, say, a two-week get-away day leisure bargain break weekend away leisure holiday-break?

Hugh Well first of all, let me give a warning to any families planning to take poetry on holiday with them.

Stephen And that is?

Hugh Be careful.

Stephen Sounds like good advice to me.

Hugh Check with your travel agent to see if there are any specific customs regulations regarding poetry, and if you're travelling outside the EEC, wrap up warm.

Stephen Any particular advice on how to carry poetry, when travelling abroad?

Hugh Yes, I would say it's definitely worth getting a proper travelling poetry bag.

Stephen A travelling poetry bag?

Hugh Yes. You can buy one of these at most big High Street travelling poetry bag shops.

Stephen Great. Now I think you've got one last poem for us, before you go?

Hugh I certainly have. This is "The Rest of My Life" by R.P. Mitchell.

Stephen The R.P. Mitchell?

Hugh No. A R.P. Mitchell.

Stephen Right.

Hugh This poem is fairly solid, but at the same time, not too heavy. I think it's quite stylish.

Stephen So it might suit, say, a young couple starting out in the catering business?

Hugh If you like. "Forward and back, Said the old man in the dance, As he whittled away at his stick, Long gone, long gone, Without a glance, To the entrance made of brick."

Stephen Thanks very much.

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