The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Ballad of Pamela Flitton: The Classic had it Coming

One of my favorite poems since my youth has been The Ballad of Reading Gaol; its strong rhythm, its depth of feeling, spoke to me right away. And the verses beginning from stanza 7 ("Yet each man kills the thing he loves...) to the end of part I were among the very few poems I had by memory.

And then, of course, I heard the bloody John Denver/Placido Domingo duet, Perhaps Love (the 80s have a lot to answer for) which, if you just add the closing line of each sung verse "My memories of love will be of you" as sung, completely scans to Wilde's text.

No, seriously, it does. Open the link to the poem in another window, click the YouTube, and sing along--and know horror that only Cthulhu can surpass.

Once I realized this, of course, I was doomed to hear the frakking song every damn time I read the poem. And so, I fear, are you now.

Sorry about that.

Anyway, years later, when as a fledgling member of the Anthony Powell Society, I was tempted by a writing contest for the annual luncheon, and was inspired to revisit Powell's Dance to the Music of Time. There I re-encountered the femme fatale Pamela Flitton (who also destroyed great art on a whim, so, yeah, in keeping with the subject of this post), and, for the contest, sacrificed poor battered Reading Gaol:

For each man kills the thing he loves.
Well, that’s what Oscar said.
But Pam Flitton never cared to love,
And still a lot of chaps are dead.
There was, we know, X Trapnel,
With his ring and fancy cane,
He could handle the wandering of the gel,
But not the papers in the Seine.

Yes, Pam ended poor old Trapnel’s plight,
With his book drowned in water cool
But the heaviest loss of those she wrought
Was that of Kenneth Widmerpool.
What’s that you cry, but poor old Ken
Lingered a volume—or was it two?
And died of spite his death at twilight
To escape Scorp’s bitter rule.

And yet I say Pam claims the palm,
For it was she who broke the pith
Of Kenenth’s soul so Scorp could calm
his followers by giving Ken the Bith.

The lady's trail of death and strife,
may have ended with poor Ken,
It's said that Powell drew her from life
depicting Babs Skelton,
Years after our dear Pam was gone,
her memoirs can be read,
The pages rich with malice,
about the men who loved and fled.

Perhaps unurprisingly, I did not win.

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