Villanelle: An appeal

Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.
What’s done is done, and nothing more to say.
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.

You wring your hands and preach austerity,
Express regret there is no other way.
Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.

So much I have surrendered willingly,
Decided I can do without. I pray
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.

A cost we can’t sustain, a luxury
We can’t afford. (Unlike the bankers’ pay.)
Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.

Is this your dream for our society –
A colourless machine; all work, no play?
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.

Our life and soul, heart and humanity –
Made yours to buy and sell, or throw away.
Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.


As I’ve mentioned before, our peerless County Music Service is facing a 50% cut in its budget, and the subsequent loss of one-third of the instrumental teaching staff. I readily declare a selfish interest in this, because my daughter has her violin lessons, attends Summer School, and plays with some fantastic ensembles through the the Service. It’s been judged Outstanding by OFSTED three years running, and works with literally thousands of children, many of whom would otherwise have little or no access to music education. For the sake of saving £500K a year (out of a total County Council budget of £380 million) it’s all being put in jeopardy, and it seems there’s nothing we can do about it. (Somehow, they’ve been able to find an extra £57 million for roads, and I’m not aware that the leader of the Council is volunteering to forgo any of his £200K+ salary, either.) And once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Would I be so exercised if similar cuts were proposed to, say, a children’s football programme? Well, yes, I probably would. We’re so fixated on business, growth and economics, we’re becoming the cynics, as defined by Oscar Wilde, who ‘know the price of everything, and the value of nothing’. We’re consumers not citizens, target markets not people, and existing rather than living. When we sacrifice music, art, sport, or any of the other things that make us human on the altar of money, we lose something of ourselves. Did any of the 200 children and 400 parents who attended the concert on Saturday think music was a waste of taxpayers’ money? I doubt it. And it’s not even as though we’re taking a State handout here: we pay fees for everything, as well as buying instruments, music and so on.
This blog isn’t meant to be a platform for my opinions, rants and crusades, so I apologise for sounding off. Thank you for bearing with me. And the villanelle goes out to anyone who faces having something dear to them taken away, in the name of saving money. N.

8 thoughts on “Villanelle: An appeal

  1. Hi Nick, this lovely villanelle is a great way to protest; how governments cut doesn’t always make sense to me too. It would be a shame to see the music service go, I wish we had something like that here! I hope that it won’t come to cutting 50% and that your daughter and the other children can keep on playing! x

  2. I have no idea how anyone can write a villanelle: I think Id end up shooting myself!! Lol.

    On a more serious note, this is the second time in two days Ive heard that quote by Oscar Wilde in connection with cuts. The other was to do with government cutting health care for older people as its more “cost effective” to care for the young!! I sincerely hope your music facilities are saved and I don’t blame you for having a rant. Xx

    • Thank you, Christine – we shall have to wait and see. We’re crossing fingers, toes and everything else that my daughter’s violin teachers escape the axe. As to writing a villanelle, it’s OK once you’ve got your two refrain lines: because they have to work as the final couplet, that’s where I usually begin. The hard part is finding two lines that a) rhyme with each other; b) make sense as a couplet; c) also make sense separately as end-lines for stanzas; and d) provide an easy rhyme for the lines around them. After that, it’s a doddle…! Give it a go; you won’t regret it. N.x

  3. If your newspaper has a letter to an editor, send this in and attach a note about its meaning. The grinches over here are at least as bad, if not worse, than those who know the cost of anything, but the value of nothing, in England. Their egos tend to be so large that they have swallowed their humanity and boiled it into pomposity. Music? Art? What’s the use of that? It doesn’t produce gas guzzlers that need new roads. It gives people ideas! Ideas I tell you. Pretty soon people will start wanting to breathe real air. Poetry? Are you trying to make the rich man poor by skinning off a dollar from his billion dollar nest egg! No! I tell you. No! Give them hell, Nick. Give them hell!

    • The worst of it (and I guess the same applies Stateside) is that the people making these cuts are the very ones who aren’t affected by them. They send their children to private schools, get treated in private hospitals, and the only form of public transport they ever use is the Gravy Train they’re all riding at our expense. (Do you have the ‘Gravy Train’ over there?) We’ll know the worst in a few weeks’ time: but if there are any barricades to be manned, you can be sure I’ll be on ’em. N.

      • We don’t have enough trains, Nick, at least in my opinion. Over here the rich are the makers and the rest of us are the takers. They are self made inheritors for the most part, but that’s not what they will ever admit even though they ride on the roads and use the communication systems and light their houses with the electrical grid and breathe clean air gratis the middle class and the poor. Their gravy train exists all right, while they claim that it would not exist except for them. One fatuous old fool just said that he thinks dollars should vote so that he could outvote everybody since he has more dollars than everybody, and people still elect the toadies to these men and women to office so that they can feed off the carcass of the public.

      • You wouldn’t have much time for the clowns (allegedly) running this great nation, either, Tom. I heard the other day that more pupils from Eton (the £50,000-a-year private school that produced our beloved Prime Minister) get places at Oxford and Cambridge than kids who receive free school meals across the entire country. And don’t get me started on the people at the top of our banks and FTSE 100 companies. I wouldn’t say no to the money, but who would want to be one of them? N.

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