Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jim Laker, Suez and W H Auden

Fifty years ago yesterday, Colonel Nasser announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal. This set in train a set of events which led to the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden as prime minister and the general realisation that Britain was no longer an imperial power.

Fifty years ago today, Jim Laker took all ten wickets in the Australian second innings at Old Trafford, making it 19 in the match.

It's strange to think of these two events happening on successive days. The odd scraps of history we all remember must exist in different compartments in our minds, rarely being brought together like this.

This feels a good time to quote the whole of Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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