(West Country accent)
Dad was from Devon, Bill the Barber
the West Country lad, not done so bad
lathering them genteel folk with his soft badger
brush, in Maiden Lane, off Covent Garden
He ’ad small, sea blue eyes and a most unfortunate nose
like a parrot, with a cliff of a chin juttin’ right out
like a continent.
But they say he was more cheery ’an his son
always ’ad a smile on his face, optimistic-like
corse good for customers and ’is bizniss.
Never one for praising ’is son to ’is face
“You don’t wanna give ’em a big ’ead”
he said, “lessing the boy saved a shilling.”
Mary, his Ma was born in the sound of Bow Bells
a right Cockney gel, from a long of Butchers
– chops an’ joints on market stalls-
wiv a warehouse up in Walfamstow
But that Mary she ’ad a bloody temper, I tell ya
– proper fierce ole cow
wootten wanna meet ’er up an alley, in a black mood.
Drove ’er son out to that studio in Hand Court
un-pre-dict-able she was
likely to toss fings to and fro yer livin’ room
Well yer can’t ’ave that can yer?
– not round paintings and the like.
Poor lad seeing ’is muvva like that.
She was put in the loony bin in the end
– too much ruckus see
’ad to be con-strained they said, in Bedlam
the mad ’ouse in Old St
a cuppla years before the sad cow carked it
among the squeals and shrieks of all them freaks
– incurable they said.
(Upper Class British voice)
Short and squat and certainly not
at all the sort of man you might imagine
as a fellow of the Royal Academy.
Joseph Mallord William Turner RA
born on St George’s Day
just like our great bard, Shakespeare.
And four days after his birth
a momentous phenomenon
three suns, a trinity, were seen in the western sky.
A magnificent portent,
a significant omen
certainly a fitting prelude to a myth.
To perhaps the greatest British artist
who would say on his deathbed, in his last words
“The Sun is God”.
[1st performed at the Art Gallery of South Australia]