‘Shelley at Oxford,’ a Timely Polemic for Christmas

Huxley Scientific Press [Oxford]

Written by Heathcote Williams, montaged and narrated by Alan Cox, it has just arrived on YouTube and begins like this …

In Oxford High Street, in 1810,
Slatter & Munday’s Bookshop
Had a large, bow-fronted window
For displaying their latest wares.

Aged 19, Shelley flooded it with a pamphlet
On ‘The Necessity Of Atheism’.
Which he could only get printed in Worthing
Since no one in Oxford would touch it.

Listen here
(the words are slightly different in the audio):

The narration comes in seven posts, continuing like this …

At Oxford Shelley wore his hair in shanks,
‘Like a lion’s mane or meteor’s tail’
To show solidarity with the spirit of 1792
Unlike the fashions of the right-wing

For adopting close-cropped military styles
As a homage to Wellington’s troops
Then engaged in a superfluous Peninsular War.
Shelley adopted an ideological haircut.

… and this …

Should Shelley, still not believing in God
(But still perhaps believing in daemons),
Walk down Oxford’s High Street to the former site
Of Slatter & Munday’s bookshop,

He’d find in its place a branch of Lloyds TSB –
A fluorescent temple to the Golden Calf;
No letterpress pamphlets lovingly sewn, but colour brochures
Inviting conversion to the bankers’ religion.

… and this …

… and this …

… and this …

… and ends like this.

‘Tiz a masterwork, available in print
from Huxley Scientific Press.

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  1. n.o.mustill says

    Mr. Williams’s SHELLEY AT OXFORD is brilliant. Thank you Jan Herman for the fine headsup. — N.O.Mustill