I’m going to admit that I sat in my hotel room last night (Glasgow) and watched the whole memorial service. There were some parts of political rhetoric and others of schmalz – but overall, I thought, a dignified tribute. I’m also going to admit that Stevie Wonder made me cry, as did Brooke Shields and Jermaine – I’m clearly getting too old for this. But I’ve given a lot of thought to the Michael Jackson issue since his death – and realised last night how best to sum those thoughts – the words of an old favourite by Robert Browning that meant much to me many years ago and has symbolised many aspects of my own life: An Old Story I It was roses, roses, all the way, With myrtle mixed in my path like mad. The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway, The church-spires flamed, such flags they had, A year ago on this very day! II The air broke into a mist with bells, The old walls rocked with the crowds and cries. Had I said, “Good folks, mere noise repels— But give me your sun from yonder skies!” They had answered, “And afterward, what else?” III Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun, To give it my loving friends to keep. Nought man could do have I left undone, And you see my harvest, what I reap This very day, now a year is run. IV There’s nobody on the house-tops now— Just a palsied few at the windows set— For the best of the sight is, all allow, At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet, By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow. V I go in the rain, and, more than needs, A rope cuts both my wrists behind, And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds, For they fling, whoever has a mind, Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds. VI Thus I entered Brescia, and thus I go! In such triumphs, people have dropped down dead. “Thou, paid by the World,—what dost thou owe Me?” God might have questioned; but now instead ‘Tis God shall requite! I am safer so.
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