Magazine article The Spectator

Fair Is Foul

Magazine article The Spectator

Fair Is Foul

Article excerpt

IN COMPETITION NO. 1949 you were asked for a Wordsworthian sonnet, beginning with the first line of his one written on Westminster Bridge but substituting another word for 'fair', describing the horrors of any inner cityscape.

`Fair is foul, and foul is fair: hover through the fog and filthy air,' sang the Witches in Macbeth presciently, as if they were in a blasted city rather than on a blasted heath. This week's entries deserve six winners, so I step aside to make room for them, only pausing to commend Bill Turner, who bombed Lincoln, John E. Cunningham, who devastated the New Globe, Bankside, and Chris Tingley, whose urban scene was so dreary that `Even the dogs have caught the mood somehow,

/Looking more glum with every leg they cock.' The prizewinners, printed below, get L20 each, and the bonus bottle of Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch whisky goes to Paul Griffin.

Composed outside Ipswich Station, February 1996 Earth has not anything to show more chill; Only a new creation could contrive To stand outside this station and survive Some furry humanoid with penguin bill. Yet there in smelly bedlam down the hill In high black towers the office workers thrive,

Unthinking bees in each gigantic hive, Oxygenated at their masters' will. Never did wind more pitilessly sweep Here, from the harbour where the tankers sway, The grim marinas where the bosses keep Grey battered yachts against a better day. Dear God, can numbness really strike so deep? Can any town invite one less to stay?

(Paul Griffin)

From O'Connell Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more crass: Full must he be of spleen who each day views Swift's city ravaged, savaged by Yahoos. Her classic smile has false teeth now, alas: Once perfect Georgian squares are a morass Of modern tasteless structures which abuse Palladio's laws - he who was Dublin's Muse, Would he have sanctioned walls of brown plateglass?

Around the perfect curve of Gandon's dome Foul belching chimneys spread their murky pall; The Liffy shifts its froth of filth and scum; Along the Quays, druggies and vagrants sprawl. Dear God, is this what Dublin has become? `The Fault is in Mankind.' Swift says it all.

(Jane Falloon)

Earth has not anything to show more grim: As traffic thunders past us in the rain, Mud-splashed, fume-choked, we try to cross in vain The green man dares us to risk life and limb. Our heritage is daily growing dim, For ancient buildings cannot take the strain; The Town Hall's under scaffolding again, And demolition suits the Council's whim. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.