Yesterday I went to a superb lecture by UC Berkeley’s Leslie Kurke on Herodotus-as-Aesopian-fabulist, which ended with a discussion of the famous Hippokleides story:

At last the day arrived for the marriage feast and for the Kleisthenes’ announcement of whom he had chosen from all. Kleisthenes sacrificed one hundred cattle, and summoned both the suitors and all of the citizens of Sicyon to the banquet. After dinner, the musical competition among the suitors was held, as well as also the competition in speaking on a set theme and in these, Hippokleides surpassed all the other suitors. As the drinking continued, Hippokleides ordered the flute player to play a dance tune for him, and when the flute player obeyed he began to dance. Presumably, Hippokleides danced to his own satisfaction, but Kleisthenes, as he watched the whole business, was disturbed. Hippokleides rested for a little while, but then he ordered the servants to bring in a table, and when it had been brought in, he danced on it, first of all Lakonian dances and after that Attic dances, he stood on his head on the table and waved his legs in the air. Even though Hippokleides was no longer acceptable to him as a son-in-law, because of the shamelessness of his dancing, Kleisthenes did not wish to berate him and restrained himself during the first two sessions of dancing but when he saw him waving his legs in the air he was no longer able to restrain himself and said: “Oh son of Teisander, you have danced away your wedding”: but Hippokleides replied: “Hippokleides doesn’t care”.

And today I’m very pleased to read on the BBC website that Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash said of his dad at the 37th Annual Country Music Awards that “It’s amazing my father had such a life that he could expose himself and still never lose his dignity”.The Man in Black doesn’t care!

Though it’s unclear whether he was waving his legs in the air at the time.

Poetry Corner

E. J. Thribb rises to the occasion, in this week’s Private Eye:

Im Memoriam

So. Farewell
Johnny Cash.

Famous country

Yes, you were
Known as the
Man In Black.

Were I to
Attend your
I too would
Be the Man
In Black.

But Tennessee is
A long way
From Tooting.

And Ryan Air
Do not
Fly there.

E. J. Thribb (aged 17 1/2)

PS. Apologies to
Leni Riefenstahl

For not writing a
Or a Thribbody
As they are known
On the occasion
Of her death.

“The Woman In Black

Yes, that would have
Been a good title.

Or perhaps I
Should have used
It for Lady
Diana Mosley.

The same copy also reports that the verb “to hoon” means, according to the Urban Online Dictionary, “to act in an unacceptable way”.

Johnny Cash, RIP

Johnny Cash has died, aged 71.

“When I was just a baby, my mama told me, son,
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns,
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die:
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.”

I started listening to Johnny Cash about five years ago, starting with the Man in Black compilation, and there are now a dozen Cash CDs in my collection; and the older I get and the more I listen to his songs, the more excellent and important a musician he always seems to me to be, for all kinds of reasons.There’s the remarkably harmonious fusion in his music of a surprising number of American traditions — country, rock’n’roll, gospel, folk, a bit of blues — in a career stretching from the million-dollar quartet of the 1950s (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash) through to the new millennium; there’s the combination of his own excellent songwriting (“Folsom Prison Blues”, “I Walk the Line”, “I Still Miss Someone”), with marvellous covers of songs by his contemporaries (Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe”, Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman”, Kris Kristoferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”), with older American classics (“Wreck of the Old ’97”, “Cocaine Blues”, “The Great Speckled Bird”, and so on). It adds up to a body of work which treats of the most important, most difficult subjects of them all — love, God, murder, prison — with immense humanity, most remarkably displayed on Johnny Cash At San Quentin, the finest live recording I possess. And he could be very funny, too, and not just on “A Boy Named Sue”.

He had been ill for a while, though the longstanding diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease later turned out, as I recall, to have been mistaken (it was just a surprisingly long hangover, or something); his most recent album (American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around) was alarmingly poor, its recordings of “Danny Boy” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” showing that he’d lost the plot a bit; his darling companion June Carter Cash died earlier this year: this seems to be a good time for this life to draw to a close.

But what a life — and what fantastic music.

The World’s Favourite Song

The BBC World Service has announced that the World’s Favourite Song is… “A Nation Once Again” by the Wolfe Tones…

A Nation Once Again

When boyhood’s fire was in my blood,
I read of ancient freemen,
For Greece and Rome who bravely stood,
Three Hundred men and Three men.
And then I prayed I yet might see
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be
A Nation once again.

And, from that time, through wildest woe,
That hope has shone, a far light;
Nor could love’s brightest summer glow
Outshine that solemn starlight:
It seemed to watch above my head
In forum, field and fane;
Its angel voice sang round my bed,
‘A Nation once again.’

It whispered, too, that ‘freedom’s ark
And service high and holy,
Would be profaned by feelings dark,
And passions vain or lowly;
For freedom comes from God’s right hand,
And needs a godly train;
And righteous men must make our land
A Nation once again.’

So, as I grew from boy to man,
I bent me to that bidding–
My spirit of each selfish plan
And cruel passion ridding;
For, thus I hoped some day to aid–
Oh! can such hope be vain?
When my dear country shall be made
A Nation once again.

A splendid choice by the peoples of the world, and a fine, fine song.

Chris adds [23.12.2002]: An Irish friend tells me that it has long been known that the Republicans and the Devil have all the best tunes and that this comes as no surprise to the Unionists, for whom they have long been synonymous…