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!”
New details have emerged about Boris Johnson’s escapades at the Bullingdon Club and during his Oxford Union presidency.
Johnson, who studied Classics at Balliol, is alleged to have struggled to fund his drunken vandalism while a member of the notorious dining society. Some of his contemporaries claim he was unable to pick up restaurant tabs and that the current Mayor of London still owes them money. The claims stem from a recent biography, Just Boris by Sonia Purnell.
Amongst them is one former member who says the Mayor stills owes him at least £125 after he was forced to pay for Boris’s share of a particularly lavish meal one evening. The member even confronted Boris about the debt over twenty years later at a Notting Hill Christmas party, though whether the debt was paid remains to be seen.
Some students were unimpressed with Johnson’s Bullingdon years. One 2nd physicist called the revelation “embarrassing”.
“It rather shatters the image of Boris as a hair-ruffling champagne quaffing toff,” he added, “but that said, Boris Johnson is a true character, and I would still consider him a true lad.”
The claims stem from a recently published biography, “Just Boris”, penned by freelance journalist with Sonia Purnell.
Purnell worked closely with Johnson during his stint as a euro-skeptic reporter for the Telegraph in the 1990s.
The book also sheds some light on Johnson’s term as Union President, which took place in Trinity of 1986. Oxford contemporary and journalist Toby Young dismissed his Presidency as unremarkable, though current students are praising the term card as “Boris’s greatest political achievement of all time”.
The term card, illustrated by Johnson’s mother, compared the variety of speaker events to the “ingredients of an anarchic salad.”
“After a few moment’s mastication,” it continues, “one becomes aware of several common themes, like onions, beetroots and bananas…so it is with the term card…this term will be talking about Rights, Dutch cheese, Japanese cars and the marble sculptures of the Parthenon.”
“And, by way of a sort of delicious creamy mayonnaise, we have a rich stream of humour and glimmering social events…It’s your Union. It’s your salad. Tuck in.”
“I wouldn’t say this has destroyed my perception of Boris” another said, “But it’s very interesting indeed. For me, he’s just as witty and irreverent as ever and doesn’t hugely change how I perceive him as a politician.”
Second year English student James Pullinger was particularly amused. “This shows him clearly trying to play the game with the rich and the famous. It’s very telling that they helped him out, but I’m amazed anyone lent him any money. Clearly he was just as charismatic in his earlier years.”
One former Union hack recounts in the book how Johnson almost sabotaged his own career early on his Presidency, when he failed to record a committee meeting.”
“There was a panic that he would be banded incompetent if it ever got out,” he said, “[Boris] was obsessed about that accusation about him, so we were very careful to hush it up.”
The book also describes a surreal BBC radio interview with Johnson and Ken Livingstone, his opponent during the 2008 London mayoral elections. Livingstone, who had carefully studied the classics before the election to gain a deeper understanding of Johnson, corrected the former Tory MP after he conflated Shakespeare’s Pericles with the classical Pericles.
“I think Boris knew exactly what he was doing, but didn’t think anyone else would know and was shocked when I caught him out,” he said.
Boris Johnson was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.