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By Tim Williams
An Oxford Classics tutor has spoken of his delight at being commissioned to write a Pindaric Ode to the London Olympics by the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson.
Dr Armand D’Angour revealed he was asked last year to write the poem “since as a Classicist [Johnson] knew and had enjoyed” the Ode he had written for the 2004 Athens Games.
Although the poem is under embargo, D’Angour confirmed it was complete and said: “It is written in an authentic metre and dialect of ancient Greek, is translated into rhyming couplets, and contains a number of puns on people’s names including that of the Mayor.”
D’Angour, described how despite wanting to write in Latin, to distinguish it from his previous Greek Ode, Johnson “wrote to me that he was still ‘a bit in love with the idea of a Greek Ode’, and added that he had in mind a pun on the Greek word for ‘(Usain) Bolt’”.
“I had previously had in mind some Latin puns such as the words ‘Britannis / primus ab oris (‘first from Britain’s shores’, but the Latin letters can be read as saying ‘primus a Boris’ – ‘ah Boris is first’).”
“I even tried to think of ways in which it could be performed to music and marching (though my wife put me off the idea, saying that it would be reminiscent of Fascist celebrations).”
“The initial composition took me around a fortnight to complete, and I then spent a few months refining and correcting it. I have a small group of fellow classicists who subjected it to informal scrutiny and made some suggestions, but in essence it has not changed since the original composition.”
“I would say it was a challenge, but I was sufficiently on a roll for it not to seem at all arduous, just good fun – which is what I hope its effect on the audience will be. All that remains to say is – Boris for Mayor in 2012!!”
Boris Johnson, elected Mayor in 2008 and up for re-election in 2012, studied Classics at Balliol and has become famous for his love of ancient references and, like Dr D’Angour, was an alumnus of Eton College. Bijan Omrani, a Classics tutor at Westminster, has already had one Ode to the London Olympics published on the Mayor’s website.
In response to revelations in a recent biography, Just Boris by Sonia Purnell, that Boris Johnson accumulated debts while a member of the Bullingdon Club during his time at Oxford, which he was confronted about at a later party, the Mayor’s spokesman told The Oxford Student: “Boris doesn’t remember any debts. No one’s invoiced him or sent the bailiffs around!”