Great upheavals call for great poets, and great poets inspire great upheavals.
Whenever poetic words capture the spirit of the time, they stop being just words. They become deeds.
Thus Beaumarchais’s Marriage of Figaro sparked off the French Revolution, and Griboyedov’s Woe to Wit inspired the 1825 Decembrist uprising.
I’m overjoyed to observe that the genius of our time has also found a rousing poetic expression. In the great tradition of medieval minstrels and troubadours, these verses are to be sung, not recited.
Yet their genre, rap, merges song and recitation into a synergistic whole. And when practised by the sublime Stormzy, piercing words join upbeat music to appeal to the very heart of modernity.
I shan’t keep you on tenterhooks any longer. Here’s the verse that puts modernity, circa 2020, in a nutshell:
“Rule number two, don’t make the promise// If you can’t keep the deal then just be honest (Just be honest)// I could never die, I’m Chuck Norris (Chuck Norris)// F*** the government and f*** Boris (Yeah).”
Pedants among you may quibble that the couplet is somewhat wanting in formal perfection. I hope you are ashamed of yourself.
Who cares that ‘honest’ doesn’t really rhyme with ‘Boris’? When words don’t rhyme, one can make them rhyme by sheer force of personality.
Then you may question the relevance of the martial arts actor Chuck Norris in this context. Well, if you can’t discern the deep theological connotation of this reference, I’m sorry for you.
In his films Chuck Norris, now octogenarian, routinely defied prohibitive odds by putting away dozens of armed men with his hands and feet. That enciphered message of immortality raises the verse to a whole new plateau where pedants can’t tread.
You may also feel that the second two lines have no discernible link to the first two. That only goes to show how deaf you are to subliminal nuances. Here, by subtly breaking the verse in half, Stormzy stresses the moral dissonance of the ‘honest’ and ‘Boris’ juxtaposition.
This sets up – indeed makes inevitable – the poignant last line, communicating valid political criticism through a metaphorical reference to sexual congress.
But never mind the decortication, feel the resonance. The amazing thing is that Stormzy wrote his masterpiece just before the pandemic, when Mr Johnson still enjoyed rude health. But true art always transcends its historical instant.
Hence these immortal lines struck a chord in our comprehensively educated masses. As Boris Johnson fights for breath in intensive care, some of Stormzy’s disciples have tweeted direct quotations from the master.
One wrote: “Stormzy said f*** Boris and Corona did the rest.” Another skipped the attribution but still unmistakably hinted at the source: “Boris Johnson in the ICU f*** yeah.”
Still others veered outside the form of Stormzy’s poetry, while faithfully adhering to its spirit, including the theological subtext. One fan, doubtless a good Christian, wrote: “Boris Johnson about to die due to the Rona. THANK YOU LORD.”
Another good Christian implicitly affirmed the existence of life everlasting: “if boris johnson dies I will cackle maniacally say hi to Margaret Thatcher in hell.”
Yet another writer drew our attention to the broader context, while rebuking the PM for his sartorial lassitude: “Poor Boris? No. Poor NHS. F*** that scruffy man.” Other messages range from slightly wordy (“Were gonna have a party when boris Johnson dies” and “Hope boris Johnson dies and it’s painful”) to more laconic (“hope boris dies”).
One doesn’t have to be a stickler for grammatical rectitude to notice a certain carelessness of syntax throughout. That testifies to the liberating effect of modernity, what with the staid conventions of grammar, taste and morality being replaced with more democratic, progressively better standards.
Lest you might think that Mr Johnson’s fellow politicians would refrain from expressing such sentiments publicly, here’s a profound message from Councillor Sheila Oakes, Labour mayor of Heanor, Derbyshire.
Miss Oakes displayed not only an impeccable moral and aesthetic taste but also rare political acumen: “Sorry he completely deserves this and he is one of the worst PM’s we’ve ever had.”
Note the implied belief that every person suffering from a disease has somehow deserved it: this clearly has its provenance in some doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity.
As to the depth of political analysis, it has laudably taken Miss Oakes but the few months of Mr Johnson’s tenure to identify the exact place he occupies in the historical hierarchy of British prime ministers.
Alas, the Labour Party has characteristically failed to realise what a gem it possesses in Miss Oakes. To be fair, the party is trying to undo the electoral damage caused by many of its members expressing heartfelt regrets that the Holocaust didn’t quite finish the job.
Trying to launder its sullied image, the Labour Party has removed the whip from Miss Oakes, effectively kicking her out. I do hope she’ll eventually make a comeback. It would be a shame to waste such talent.