Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines

January Nineteen Hundred and One

The century turns.

Right on cue, Queen Victoria dies.

(Next time around, in the digital era

we will take the turn on the zero, not the one

making the twentieth century only

ninety-nine years long.)

Béla Bartók and Frank Bridge

are still at college

Sergei Prokofiev and Carl Orf

still at school

Aaron Copland and Kurt Weill

in their cots

William Walton not yet born.

But Maurice Ravel has just joined

the Société des Apaches

(or Bunch of Hooligans)

later to enrol, when they come to Paris

Manuel de Falla and Igor Stravinsky.

A turn, a period of change?

Well, yes.  In all the arts

currents criss-cross, revolutions

blossom and fade, movements

are born, copulate and die.

But for the real turn, the cataclysm

which will both inspire and destroy

so many poets and other artists

which will drag us

kicking and screaming of course

but maybe also wailing and gnashing our teeth

into the maelstrom, the fire and brimstone

that will be the twentieth century—

for this we have to wait

another thirteen and a half years.