A Sitwell Parody

Edith Sitwell by Roger Fry

Not sure where this came from but it is most likely to be from the voluminous papers of 'Evoe' - i.e. E. V. Knox. The poem parodied Colonel Fantock (from Troy Park, Duckworth 1925) is actually one of Edith Sitwell's finest, but 'Evoe' has picked up on her and her brothers' snobbery, haughtiness and pretentions. The full  original poem can be found here. It contains some beautiful lines and has elements of tragedy, or at least pathos:

I was a member of a family
Whose legend was of hunting -- (all the rare
And unattainable brightness of the air) --

The parody dates from the early 1950s when it seems the Sitwells had become ubiquitous in British cultural life, possibly to a slightly  annoying extent in the way that some British celebrities (with vast tribes of twitter followers) are 60 years later.


Osbert, the Author of "England Reclaimed", begins:

To us sad children in whose veins there ran
The violet blood of the old Angevin Kings
(1154 to 1216).
So that we all had Visi-Gothic faces
And seemed unreal in theatres and places –

Edith, the Author of "Troy Park", goes on:

I was a member of the family,
And from those tombed lords we inherited
A liking for wind-music – all the rare
Impetuous rapture of the trumpet blare.
I often think that cornet players only
Know what it is to be left entirely lonely.

Sacheverell, the Author of "All Summer in a day", breaks in:

The dulness of our life was terrible.
It had the remote air of a legend
Printed beneath a faded photograph
Of some one whom we did not wish to know.

Edith readeth again:

All day about the glittering arabesque
That seemed a piece of music born of silence
But for convenience and the servants' sake
Was usually termed the garden, we –
That is to say Peregrine Dagobert and me –
Walked hand-in-hand and tried to look baroque
Or gave our imitation of gazelles,
Tinkling along the paths with golden bells
Sometimes we tip-toed suddenly, saying,
A bird shrills greenly in the painted bush,
The rhododendron over there
Drops paper curls, I do declare'.
And knew the castle, like the castle grounds,
Was two-dimensional, and we ourselves
Pasted upon it with our flat pale limbs.
And Colonel Fantock pounded after us,
His mayfly whiskers tangled in the trees,
Saying, 'We have not learnt our morning hymns.
Try to be less rococo, children, please!'
Poor harmless creature, military ghost,
A puff of hot air wandering and lost,
He could not face the stiffness of the grass
The brittleness of the fountain, frozen as glass,
The fabled unreality of the flowers –
Poor Colonel Fantock, how could he understand?
And the huge strength of Dagobert, my brother,
And Peregrine's fast movements, like a faun,
When sprinting for the emerald-feathered trees,
And even my own habit, caught somewhere,
Of drowning elegantly in my pale straight hair
Annoyed him when he had to tutor us.

We always were a little out of hand.

Osbert and Sacheverell snatch up the lyre.

So in the ancient and peculiar gardens
We moved with pale and legendary faces,
Dagobert wore a belt –
and Peregrine braces,
And she had on her holland pinafore –
And vowed ourselves to a Beauty that should be
By dint of tiger-striped Publicity
Forced on a world of Fantocks, cruel and grim.
We dreamed of that which was to come to pass,
Trapsing about upon the thick furred grass,
Or near those bright-hued harlequins, the waves,
But seldom visited the local caves,
Because we so disliked the tripper class.

Now to the British public, fools, and blind,
But grown, by constant bullying, much more kind,
We dedicate this symphony of ours
In memory of that old time among the flowers
And one long day in peacock-tasselled June
When we decided on a roar triune,
When Colonel Fantock,
Sworn foe, harsh enemy
To leonine music,
To apricot song,
The Philistine –
Blighter –
The anthropoid
Colonel Fantock wrote:
Do not ask from what lumber
Of chutney-chewed slumber
Colonel Fantock awoke
Noon-drowsed, with a scream,
At our shouting, 'That bloke
Has no business to dream!'

So all gigglers and cads
Have paid heed to our ads.
And English henceforth has no other choice
Than listening to our threefold panther voice,
Passant and gardant from the third Crusade,
And the long blast of our fan-faronade.

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