Day 72 (back on track?)

December 15th, 2013 § 0 comments



This is a time of (limited) celebration for the Bedouin – who, you will remember from some months back – faced the expropriation of their land and the forcible transfer of tens of thousands from 35 unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev)131212-prawer-plan

Bedouins demonstrate in front of the court house in the city of Beer Shava to protest the Prawer Plan and to call for the release of those arrested during earlier protests, 5 December.

desert in the south of present-day Israel, under a Knesset bill known as the ‘Prawer Plan’. The bill was withdrawn – maybe oly temporarily – following (because of? widespread protests, incluing several ‘Days of Rage’ in Palestine, and elewhere. Even in London, where days of rage tend to be small, damp, and grumpy rather than enraged.

[A brief aside: It beats me, and I expect you too, that Mr Cameron should feel he needs to call in special powers to sweep the dark parts of the net and unearth the disgusting paedophiles. After all, we know that not a message, email or text, is sent without GCHQ knows about it; so that if (to take a random example) Angela Merkel were involved in drug trafficking or grooming children for sex, she could be shopped immediately. (So how, one wonders, did Berlusconi escape our rulers' scrutiny?)]

On the evergreen subject of keeping immigrants out, or making sure their life is miserable once they arrive, we have the perhaps over-zealous Mr Duncan-Smith’s proposal that there should be compulsory English tests before they qualify for benefits. Come again? I’m pretty sure that Welsh is accepted by the EU

welshexambookswebWelsh exam books

as an equivalent for English (whatever that is – don’t let’s go down that road, we’ll be back with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or textese and selfies). Indeed, when I was studying international human rights law, my respected tutor listed about ten UK languages, from Cornish through Scots Gaelic to Lowland Scottish, which have some locus standi  in international law, I can’t remember what. I’d have thought that an immigrant (inimriche, in Scots) who could express herself fluently in any of them, would have a case to defend her right to  maintain her benefits.

If we combine the theme of regional British languages with our earlier discussion of geometrical poems, here is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (not on a level with Dante, perhaps, indeed a reactionary Georgian, but nobody’s perfect) with a clear ballad version of Euclid I.1.


The King sits in Dunfermline toun
Drinking the blude-red wine:
“O wha will rear me an equilateral triangle
Upon a given straight line?”

O up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King’s right knee—
“Of a’ the clerks by Granta side
Sir Patrick bears the gree.

“‘Tis he was taught by the Tod-huntére
Tho’ not at the tod-hunting;
Yet gif that he be given a line,
He’ll do as brave a thing.”

Our King has written a braid letter
To Cambrigge or thereby,
And there it found Sir Patrick Spens
Evaluating Π.

He hadna warked his quotient
A point but barely three,
There stepped to him a little foot-page
And louted on his knee.

The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Plus x,” was a’ he said:
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
‘Twas “plus expenses paid.”

The last word that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his e’e:
“The pound I most admire is not
In Scottish currencie.”

Stately stepped he east the wa’,
And stately stepped he north:
He fetched a compass frae his ha’
And stood beside the Forth,

Then gurly grew the waves o’ Forth,
And gurlier by-and-by—
“O never yet was sic a storm,
Yet it isna sic as I!”

Syne he has crost the Firth o’ Forth
Until Dunfermline toun;
And tho’ he came with a kittle wame
Fu’ low he louted doun.

“A line, a line, a gude straight line,
O King, purvey me quick!
And see it be of thilka kind
That’s neither braid nor thick.”

“Nor thick nor braid?” King Jamie said,
“I’ll eat my gude hat-band
If arra line as ye define
Be found in our Scotland.”

“Tho’ there be nane in a’ thy rule,
It sail be ruled by me;”
And lichtly with his little pencil
He’s ruled the line A B.

Stately stepped he east the wa’,
And stately stepped he west;
“Ye touch the button,” Sir Patrick said,
“And I sall do the rest.”

EuclidAnd he has set his compass foot
Untill the centre A,
From A to B he’s stretched it oot—
“Ye Scottish carles, give way!”

Syne he has moved his compass foot
Untill the centre B,
From B to A he’s stretched it oot,
And drawn it viz-a-vee.

The tane circle was BCD,
And A C E the tither:
“I rede ye well,” Sir Patrick said,
“They interseck ilk ither.

“See here, and where they interseck—
To wit with yon point C—
Ye’ll just obsairve that I conneck
The twa points A and B.

“And there ye have a little triangle
As bonny as e’er was seen;
The whilk is not isosceles,
Nor yet it is scalene.”

“The proof! the proof!” King Jamie cried:
“The how and eke the why!”
Sir Patrick laughed within his beard—
“‘Tis ex hypothesi

“When I ligg’d in my mither’s wame,
I learn’d it frae my mither,
That things was equal to the same,
Was equal ane to t’ither.

“Sith in the circle first I drew
The lines B A, B C,
Be radii true, I wit to you
The baith maun equal be.

“Likewise and in the second circle,
Whilk I drew widdershins,
It is nae skaith the radii baith,
A B, AC, be twins.

“And sith of three a pair agree
That ilk suld equal ane,
By certes they maun equal be
Ilk unto ilk by-lane.”

“Now by my faith!” King Jamie saith,
“What plane geometrie!
If only Potts had written in Scots,
How loocid Potts wad be!”

“Now wow’s my life!” said Jamie the King,
And the Scots lords said the same,
For but it was that envious knicht,
Sir Hughie o’ the Graeme.

“Flim-flam, flim-flam!” and “Ho indeed?”
Quod Hughie o’ the Graeme;
“‘Tis I could better upon my heid
This prabblin prablem-game.”

Sir Patrick Spens Was nothing laith
When as he heard “flim-flam,”
But syne he’s ta’en a silken claith
And wiped his diagram.

“Gif my small feat may better’d be,
Sir Hew, by thy big head,
What I hae done with an A B C
Do thou with X Y Z.”

Then sairly sairly swore Sir Hew,
And loudly laucht the King;
But Sir Patrick tuk the pipes and blew,
And played that eldritch thing!

He’s play’d it reel, he’s play’d it jig,
And the baith alternative;
And he’s danced Sir Hew to the Asses’ Brigg,
That’s Proposetion Five.

And there they’ve met, and there they’ve fet,
Forenenst the Asses’ Brigg,
And waefu’, waefu’ was the fate
That gar’d them there to ligg.

For there Sir Patrick’s slain Sir Hew,
And Sir Hew Sir Patrick Spens—
Now was not that a fine to-do
For Euclid’s Elemen’s?

But let us sing Long live the King!
And his foes the Deil attend ‘em:
For he has gotten his little triangle,
Quod erat faciendum!

You have probably read in the popular press (one thinks of the Guardian) of Myam,or Mayam Mahmoud, the ‘rapper in a hijab’ who has caused a sensation on ‘Arabs Got Talent’ with her number ‘Ana mesh segara‘ – denouncing sexual harassment. It’s today’s song, and I for one hope she wins. Maybe she can follow with a number calling for the release of the jailed women protesters, as demanded by Amnesty among others.


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