Reflections on a Nightmare
Henry Fuseli is not a kiddies’ pasta character. Nor does he play left back for Bologna. And I can also assure you he is not an aristocratic electrician who comes around and has his butler tinker with your sockets. Although I grant you, it would make a fine name for such a niche role.
No, Henry Fuseli was in fact an 18th century Anglo-Swiss artist most famous for a painting called The Nightmare, painted in 1781, which lives long in the memory of the viewer.
And neither wonder. It’s a striking canvas. With its dishevelled maiden, ape-like succubus and mad crazy horse - think of the nag from Father Ted’s fever dream in the My Lovely Horse episode.
So Fuseli’s most idiosyncratic of works became a popular success. Well, there was no telly or jazz mags back then, so nipping down to the gallery to marvel at some outlandish vision was your only outlet. That and whoring I suppose. Or betting on fighting monkeys perhaps.
Putting provocative assertions aside – and let’s face it, nobody likes to dwell on their provocative assertions – the triumph of Fuseli’s nightmarish scene is testament to our terrible fascination with the grotesque and the fanciful products of troubled minds…
Anything to distract from, or indeed focus away from, the toxic stew sloshing about in our own noggins. I often wonder whether the trepanners were right, sometimes you just want to relieve the pressure in the most crude and physical way. Then you sober up, thankfully.
Anyhoo. Indulgences have no place here. For we seek not to forgive the debacle that was 2020. Or paper over it. Or come over all Pollyanna-ish and dismiss it as some vile canker swiftly excised by the surgeon of time.
Dr Hogmanay your patient waits. Just raise a cheer when the clock strikes 12 on the 31st of December and hey… the spell is broken right? Hmm… I’m not convinced. I mean things will improve (hard not to you’d think), but shithousery is as shithousery does. And shithousery, dear reader, is now the new norm.
Don’t believe me? I admire your faith in humanity. And I want to share it, I really do. But more and more, I worry that Frederick Douglass’s famous dictum hit the bullseye, won the car and came back next week to go again.
Those words being: “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” In other words, if you shrug your shoulders at this stuff ongoing (Trump, Johnson, Brexit and general arseholery), then you are as good as biting the gag ball, parting your cheeks and lubing up. INCOMING!
At this point, I can feel the spittle on my neck: What are you doing about it Monty? Come on… lead the revolution! Nah, sorry folks, I’m a lover, not a fighter. Actually, I’m not even a lover TBH; I’m a drinker/waffler/get-byer. Like most of us I suppose.
However I do wield one potent weapon in this fight: bad poetry. Yes, it may pain some of the more esteemed, and infinitely more talented, contributors to this august organ, but I have been nurturing my McGonagall genes for years. Indeed regularly visit his resting place in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
The title on his final tablet reads ‘Poet and Tragedian’. How wonderful and how apt, because what you’re about to read is a riff on tragedy in a particularly tragic way.
Behold the verse of C. Montasque (the pen name is a work in progress), Scotland’s latest McGonagall, soi-disant of course, because hey, I need not the approval of the poetry establishment.
To paraphrase Duchamps, if I say it is poetry, it is poetry. Right? Now that is sorted, prepare ye for thy doom!
I want to thump
Your puckered face,
Because you’re a disgrace
(And your hair’s gash.)
Internal Market Bill
Breaking the law!
Breaking the law!
Breaking the law!
But only in a limited and specific way -
Not very rock & roll, you Tory tits.
If I was an artist
I’d take my smock down during lockdown.
No point in keeping your clothes clean.
We’re not going anywhere nice.
Staying in and Drinking Wine
The boozer’s shut.
Naebody’s half cut.
No fibs about Hibs.
Or farts about Hearts.
Just the sound of silence,
As I drink at my kitchen table.
Watching, and waiting…
For the bars to open again.
Fuseli’s Nightmare, a window on to 2020