The whirligig of time brings in his revenges

Why, ‘some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrown upon them.’ I was one, sir, in this interlude; one Sir Topas, sir; but that’s all one. ‘By the Lord, fool, I am not mad.’ But do you remember? ‘Madam, why laugh you at such a barren rascal? an you smile not, he’s gagged:’ and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

What has happened to all those high-flying Members of Parliament who have all of a sudden stepped away to let others, untried but often as able, step into their places? When they vanish as vanish they must, will they find real life and absorb themselves in it? They must be men and women and not just political personae, but it is easy to categorise them as such and expect that there is some political strategy behind it. In truth though, no one has a right to sit in Parliament, until they are periodically elected to it, and no one has a right to be elected.

Some have found the very flavour of the House of Commons soured and repulsive. Some find that of the politics outside the formal procedures, in the interview and on social media (which it is hard to ignore even if you try not t do social media: it must be cutting to think there are people thinking about you and hating you at a distance, when all you ever wanted to do was to work for the public good).

Others though are cast out for rebellion. Some have greatest torn from the, and it hurts. Some lost favour for backing the wrong side, like a lord who wore the king’s white rose only to find Lancaster on the throne or vice versa, and thus condemned as a retrospective traitor. Many of the accustomed rulers lost their lands and their lives in that way in the days of the unfortunate King Henry VI and those who usurped his throne. The new leader of a political party may be even less forgiving than Richard of York.

They were full of confidence when they had power, and think they are still players. Once they step outside the doors of Westminster however they become ordinary men or women, with no call on the press or voice of influence. Goodness – they will even have to find jobs.

Some still now hold back through pride. It will be the end of their political careers though. They should not assume their local members will ride to the rescue – it does not work like that outside cheap Hollywood films. They stood against their own party (Conservative or Labour) and successfully prevented its action in some way, but now they find that their strength has undercut their power – the times come round again and retribution with them, to leave then whipless or deselected: the whirligig of time brings in its revenges.

Counter-cheque Quarrelsome

If one word of public discourse curdles in the ear it is ‘lie’.  It is a lazy word and ironically a dishonest one.  It is a word issued out of hatred and without thought. To us ordinary, common folk we know what it means, but in political discourse it has come to mean “an argument which we do not want to be said” or “anything said by someone we do not like”.

There should be a subtlety to disagreement.  Shakespeare explained it in As You Like It, in which Touchstone enumerates the ‘degrees of the lie’.  In this context ‘lie’ is another meaning of the word:  ‘to give the lie to’ something is to contradict it, but contradicting a man plainly is fighting talk. Therefore there are degrees of the lie, for which Touchstone’s example began:

‘I did dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard: he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well’:

1. The Retort Courteous.  he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was.

2.. The Quip Modest: he would send me word, he cut it to please himself;

3. The Reply Churlish: he disabled my judgment;

4. The Reproof Valiant: he would answer, I spake not true;

5. The Counter-cheque Quarrelsome: he would say I lied;

6. The Lie Circumstantial (also ‘the Lie with Circumstance’);

7. The Lie Direct.

I durst go no further than the Lie Circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the Lie Direct; and so we measured swords and parted.

All these you may avoid but the Lie Direct; and you may avoid that too, with an If. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an If, as, “If you said so, then I said so;” and they shook hands and swore brothers. Your If is the only peacemaker; much virtue in If.

This is wit and with is wisdom from over three hundred years ago.  Cannot our political commentators learn from it and temper their anger with art?

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