About that pension fund: Sir Philip Green and his Golden Numbers

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ART thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?
O sweet content!
Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplex’d?
O punishment!
Dost thou laugh to see how fools are vex’d                 5
To add to golden numbers, golden numbers?
O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny, hey nonny nonny!                 10

Canst drink the waters of the crispèd spring?
O sweet content!
Swimm’st thou in wealth, yet sink’st in thine own tears?
O punishment!
Then he that patiently want’s burden bears               15
No burden bears, but is a king, a king!
O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny, hey nonny nonny!                 20

Had to be in the office early today to talk to BBC Merseyside about the great news that we have got all the money and permission to start on refurbishing Calderstones Mansion House as the International Centre for Shared Reading. Oddly, though I had woken up at a beastly 4.19 am, this needing to be here early caused a disrupted morning routine that meant I didn’t get my reading and writing done before I left the house.

So here I am doing it at 9.25 am in the office. I’ve been up five hours! Looking for the work edition of OBEV couldn’t find Ricks, only Quiller Couch, which turned out to be a good thing because this old volume fell open at Thomas Dekker’s  poem for the insomniacs of this world, ‘Sweet Content’, which I don’t think is in the Helen Gardener edition I use at home. Which just goes to show the value of buying up any old editions of the EBEV that you see.

The poem is about ‘content’ : about work and what makes us happy and what makes us rich. Anyone who has been awake at 4.00am knows the value of ‘golden slumbers’. My dears, you can’t buy that stuff. You might be poor, but if can sleep, you are rich. And if you are rich but suffer a ‘mind perlex’d’, well them it’s ‘o punishment.’ Brilliant the way he only needs one word to open that world of tossing and turning pain.

Thomas Dekker locates sweet content in our experience of being at peace, and somehow – not yet clear to me – this is also connected to work and money and yet they seem are also disconnected.

Dost thou laugh to see how fools are vex’d                 5
To add to golden numbers, golden numbers?
O sweet content! O sweet, O sweet content!
Work apace, apace, apace, apace;
Honest labour bears a lovely face;
Then hey nonny nonny, hey nonny nonny!

Adding ‘golden numbers’ to ‘golden numbers’ is a vexing occupation, perhaps completely pointless, as it is performed by fools. I’m thinking of Philip Green – with golden numbers beyond most people’s wildest imagination – caring about paying out what he owes people for their pensions. Why does he care?  He has three superyachts. How can any golden numbers make any real difference to him! But imagine one of those women who worked in the lighting department in the Liverpool Church Street store – great department for years – perhaps she  still works part-time somewhere else. Works ‘apace, apace, apace, apace’. Her honest labour bears a lovely face. I hope she sleeps easy, without having to worry about her pension.  The poem invites us to  think about ‘honest labour’ as oppose to dishonest labour.

What’s ‘hey nonny nonny’?  it’s nonsense – like fa-la-la-la-la- or doo-wop… but it to me, here, it means – ‘hey! let’s not be worried!’

Second stanza is about not having stuff. Do you just drink wild water, the ‘waters of the crisped spring’? (as opposed to beer or wine) – that’s good, ‘oh sweet content’, compared to someone swimming in wealth but drowning in their own tears.

Then he that patiently want’s burden bears               15
No burden bears, but is a king, a king!

Love these lines, a sort of patient mindful acceptance 500 years before modern psychology. We make our own conditions. Patience, and bearing it, overcomes  the privation of ‘want’ – true or false? Depends how bad that privation is, no doubt? Or does it? Some modern psychology has its roots in the Nazi concentration camps where people such a Victor Frankl  realised that the cast of mind people developed or suffered could change their fate. I read an interesting article on resilience in the Harvard Business Review: it’s not about optimism, indeed, optimism may be a really bad way to face challenges.

Then he that patiently want’s burden bears               15
No burden bears, but is a king, a king!

The movement over the line ending, ‘burden bears’no burden bear’ is a wonderful model – how trouble, the burden, simply slips from you. We change our state when we change our state of mind. Feels like several  elements of that change are in this poem  -the ‘hey nonny nonny’ let’s stuff go, the ‘work apace’  keeps you working at it, the ‘sweet content’ gives you something lovely.

Is a poem a form of CBT? can we change mind patterns by having the lines in us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “About that pension fund: Sir Philip Green and his Golden Numbers

  1. Lydia Moore March 15, 2017 / 10:52 am

    That’s a lovely post – really made think! Thank you, Jane, and congratulations for on the wonderful news about Callie!!!

  2. Jamie March 15, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Poetry= CBT – too simple an equation I think. Poetry works more implicitly than CBT. CBT is more a conscious process and lacks the ‘spirit’ of what a poem can do – poems working from the unconscious level – they can trigger that ability to change thought patterns but from a ‘whole mind level’ …. CBT compartmentalises experiences… You look at the behaviour then what feelings lead to it and then what is the thought causing the feeling and then try to practice a new thought… I think when we read well it all sort of happens at once and the new belief strengthens naturally each time we re-experience the poem and reflect on our reading.

    • drjanedavis March 15, 2017 / 4:00 pm

      agree it was a simplistic formulation – bit rushed this morning! but there is something about the effect of poetry and especially if we read and reread?

  3. Jamie March 15, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    Yep, with you on that -poetry does have powerful effect and rereading is definitely important

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