Lines for the Times – from Punch, 1947

Thanks to Tom Cotton for reminding me/us of the delightful verse from Punch during the winter of 1947. My own memories are of being in bed with a second attack of pneumonia, of the collection of penicillin bottles on my windowsill, one left by the doctor after each injection, and of looking out enviously at my fit young friends and neighbours throwing snowballs in the south Dublin street.

By the way, when I had my first bout of pneumonia penicillin was not available in Ireland, and my parents spent anxious days while I was in a delirium. By 1947 penicillin was administered by injection into the posterior. Not too painful, and revolutionary in its effect.

Another memory is of a breakfast cereal from the USA called Kix. The packets were printed with items that built up into a cut-out model railway, and I instructed my long-suffering mother which packets to buy. Just the job for a convalescent 10 year old.

Back to the Latin verses. Emanuel Shinwell (line 6) was the Minister of Power at the time.

Dear David,

I imagine that, like me, you have vivid memories of the 1947 winter. Do you know this, from Punch, by FC Geary? It may go well on the ARLT blog in present circumstances.

Kind regards,

Tom Cotton


Ministro Fulminis

Utinam in Timbuctu fatum me locasset
Vel me Rex in Africam secum invitasset,
Nec in frigidario sic incarceratus
Horream, Apollinis quaeritans afflatus.

Dum de caelo Jupiter gelat, stridet, ningit,
In terris Emanuel foculos exstinguit :
Nil agunt artifices, feriati gratis,
Ob deficientiam electricitatis.

Ut in bello per vias imus enigratas
Vel tabernas visimus vix illuminatas,
Dum redintegrant minas anti-cyclonales
Meteorologici ministeriales.

Cessat campis Arsenal sphaeram propulsare,
cessat ersatz leporem canis agitare,
Cessat Ritz-Kinematum genialis flamma,
Cessat lumen Vesperis, tertium programma.

Verbis Februarium insectati diris,
Imitemur habitus hibernantis gliris
Amphorisque fervidis lectos oneremus,
Ut ad veris tepidos soles dormitemus.

2 Responses

  1. Can anyone supply a translation. I remember the winter of1947 and this verse in Punch which our Latin teacher eagerly seized on.

    • I wasn’t around in 1947, but I do remember old Manny Shinwell (never called Emanual in my recollection) Here’s my take on the poem. Criticism expected and welcomed!

      To the Minister of Power

      Would that Fate had put me in Timbuktu
      Or the King had invited me with him to Africa
      And that I weren’t shivering like this in the frigidarium
      Forever seeking the breath of Apollo.
      While from the sky Jupiter chills, shrills and snows,
      On earth Manny puts out the hearth-fires:
      Skilled men are idle, doing nothing for nothing
      All for want of electricity.
      As in war-time, we go through blacked-out streets
      Or pay visits to shops which are barely lit,
      While the Official Weathermen start issuing their
      Threats of anticyclones again.
      On the pitch, Arsenal stop giving the ball a punt,
      The dog stops chasing the artificial hare,
      The genial flame of Ritz Cinemas goes out,
      The light of the Evening Star goes out, the Third Programme stops.
      Pursued by the harsh words of February,
      We ape the habits of the hibernating dormouse
      And pile the bed high with warm water bottles,
      So that we may sleep until the warm suns of Spring.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: