Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The education of the imaginary aristocracy

In the long-running BBC Radio soap The Archers, there is a character called Nigel Pargetter. I have tended to charitably consider him to be an idiot. Tonight, he surprised me by quoting Ovid from memory. The passage is Heroides 5.21-2, and the rather free translation Nigel quotes is:

The Beeches, faithful guardians of your flame,
Bear in their wounded trunks Oenone's name;
And as the trunks, so still the letters grow.

(I don't know the translator, as the only place I found that exact rendition through a Google search didn't attribute it. I'm guessing it's Victorian, and probably famous. Anyone know?)

It says something quite reassuring about our connection with the Classical past that a character on a soap opera (albeit broadcast on a self-consciously erudite radio station) can still quote Ovid.


Carla said...

What was the context? I suppose it could just have been intended to label Nigel as a toff, though anyone with even a cursory acquaintance with The Archers surely knows that already.

Tony Keen said...

He was mourning the beeches in Lower Loxley, which had been brought down and weren't going to be replanted. I think it was meant to place Nigel as someone who went to a 'good school', which we all knew, but also as someone who remembered something he learnt there (which we didn't), and a s a person with a poetic soul.

Carla said...

Thanks, that makes sense to me. I'm only a very occasional listener, and I'd placed Nigel as perhaps lacking in common sense but not an idiot.

bibes said...

I found this site on Google as I have just heard a replay of the Archers where Nigel came out with this quote which I found rather beautiful

It reminded me of a fabulous poem by George Manley Hopkins called "Binsley Poplars". It expresses his horror when, on one of his favourite walks, he came across an avenue of Poplars that had recently been chopped down.

I discovered it a couple of years or so ago, published in the Daily Telegraph of all places.

After learning Kipling’s “Sussex” for my father in law’s funeral, I have developed a hobby of learning poems that appeal to me. This was the second one I learnt and I have since discovered many other amazing poems by this brilliant man.

If you are interested, here’s a link to the Binsley Poplars poem.