Sunday, 1 July 2012
Olympics 2012 - William Morris-style
‘But the next morn ... the games began’, as we learn in Book XVI of The Life and Death of Jason, so what would a Morrisian Olympics look like, what sports might it contain? Here are a few suggestions, culled from across his copious oeuvre:
1. throwing quoits like Jason’s Argonauts.
2. seeing how much pickwork you can get done in an hour, as Dick Hammond suggests.
3. heaving boulders as far as one can, as Grettir frequently does.
4. heaving another man as far as one can, as Child Christopher does.
5. sprinting as in ‘Atalanta’s Race’ in The Earthly Paradise (though Milanion would certainly be disqualified for his golden apples trick).
6. scaling crags for the eggs of the gerfalcon, as in Roots of the Mountains
7. shooting arrows either at a prisoner’s buttocks (Well at the World’s End) or to kill a chaffinch on the twig one hundred yards away (Roots again).
8. reforging shattered swords, as Regin does in Sigurd
9. sailing races in the floods off Runnymede on a frosty January morning (Dick Hammond again).
10. projecting images into someone else’s mind, as the evil Lady does in Wood beyond the World.
11. foraging for herbs which open secret caskets, charm dragons to sleep and/or cause clothes to spontaneously combust in sunshine (Medea).
12. seeing how high you can throw up your sword while still catching it by the hilt (Water of the Wondrous Isles).
13. distance swimming (Birdalone and Grettir are the Morrisian competition to beat).
14. spear-casting for both distance and accuracy within the great hall, as with Face-of-god in Roots.
15. wrestling, as between Hercules and Nereus in ‘The Golden Apples’ (though Nereus’s self-metamorphosis will be grounds for disqualification).
That will do for starters, though I have left out some of Morris’s own personal favourites such as singlestick, and he might well have been keen to make freshwater angling an Olympic sport too. Moreover, since his last public speech was to the Society for Checking the Abuses of Public Advertising, I need hardly say that no commercial sponsorship of any kind will be allowed at the 2012 Morrisian Games.