Magazine article The Spectator

A Farewell to Arms

Magazine article The Spectator

A Farewell to Arms

Article excerpt

In Competition No. 2674 you were invited to submit an elegy on the death of Paul the Octopus, who died peacefully in his tank last month aged a respectable two-and-a-half.

Paul was catapulted from the obscurity of an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany to international celebrity when he accurately predicted the outcome of several World Cup matches.

Commendations to Jerome Betts and Bill Greenwell. The bonus fiver is Noel Petty's. His fellow winners get £25 each.

Great Paul, the psychic octopus, is dead, His wisdom lost, locked in that mighty head.

Eight times his art was tried, eight times it passed, Thus proving that the future is precast.

The ancient riddles yielded to his skill - Ones of Determinism and free Will That had eluded Aristotle's clutch And bothered Calvin (though perhaps not much).

But here's the irony: in praising Paul We miss the Truth he laboured to install.

He did not earn the plaudits he obtained Since he himself proved all was preordained.

He left one prophecy to cheer us up - That we should host the next-but-one World Cup.

But mark - for those who loathe the wretched game, I t Was To Be, so Paul is not to blame.

Noel Petty

So cruelly snatched from Dorset's cliff-girt shore To some inland Teutonic pleasure dome;

Condemned to live in claustrophobic tanks And face the bovine public's stolid gaze;

Then forced to make predictions, mussel-based, Of contests in some distant Afric land:

That German strength would prosper early on And then succumb to pure Hispanic flair Which later would subdue the brutal Dutch.

All true, but seldom is the seer believed:

Thus did Cassandra, Priam's luckless seed, I n vain warn of Hellenic equine gifts.

We mourn thee, Paul, just two years on this earth;

The normal span for octopodes, yet Did some embittered hand hasten the day Of thy demise? We surely should be told.

Roger Theobald

Now let the solemn funeral drum Resound through each aquarium, As Paul, the polypodic seer, I s laid upon his briny bier.

O prescient mollusc! Long thy name Shall live in FIF A's Hall of F ame!

Who scried, through psychic power occult, Unerringly each match result.

No common octopus was this, Who never put a foot amiss, 'Til now - mourned magus of the Cup! …

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