Sunday, August 10, 2008

Glory Through the Ages

The old joint better known as London prides itself on its world-famous historical landmarks. Indeed, anyone familiar with the game of Monopoly would surely known what I mean. But where Monopoly fails, places of true interest and merit succeed in carrying the Olympic torch of the nation's glorious past...for free.
The National Portrait Gallery is, physically and legally, part of the National Gallery - one of London's foremost attractions. But the latter, the daddy, well that's for the tourists. The former, the sonny, is for the beings wealthy in spirit, the cultured or perhaps the pretentious wine-stained tourists (a different breed altogether), or simply people who have had too much of the daddy and prefer to settle for the walking shadow of its infant prodigy - The Portrait Gallery.
The Portrait Gallery is downright outrageous - it's simply too good. In a city where the sun is generally not welcome, it's a place of eternal sunshine of the spotless kind.
Masterpiece portraits of Britain's top notch historical figures adorn its walls -the majestic Elizabeth I, the exquisite Byron in Albanian garments, the mystical Richard Francis Burton staring perpetually into the void, the modest, almost rustic Cromwell; gravity's best friend Newton, head-free sets' foremost endorser Charles I, the blue-eyed charms of Faraday, as well as gravity's other best friend (but for entirely different reasons) Henry VIII, among
countless others.
Jokes aside - the Portrait Gallery is to me what Tintern Abbey was to Wordsworth. But I would be too presumptuous to think anyone cares - that I can be sure of.

A lot of people (die-hard political know-alls mainly) often speak of the paradox that is Britain and her history. How could this spittle of a country rule most of the world once? She's not territorially blessed, and the same goes for her natural resources. Yet her army was often the best in the business, her navy even more frequently so; colonial gain was but the net effect of all this. The National Portrait Gallery holds the answer perhaps. Indeed, that greatness Britain once had, well wasn't it all due to the talent, hard-work and devotion of precisely those magnificent figures that now silently heed you from their freshly-polished though too confining frames in a gallery that nevertheless honours them befittingly with its dignified interior? This is the true greatness, albeit imperiously so, that Britain genuinely possesses. What better proof is needed to confirm the glory of her past? A spittle indeed, but one which was spitted out by a god!
In our present world, such greatness, one that rests on the shoulders of giants like the abovementioned historical figures, is unfortunately gone. Now, it's all proxy war politics where instead of Newtons, apples fall on the heads of oil magnates. Britain's economy is an odourless gas, and so is that of the Unites States - it is based mostly on banknotes, which are rendered meaningless when confronted by the true wealth (the one that you could smell) of Russia's natural resources. What is the present crisis in South Ossetia but the assertion of precisely this observation...
Britain was once great because she was able to make good use of the people she bore - the National Portrait Gallery justifies this. But that was before. Now, she's childless, the North Sea waving her aside with false geniality, bearing right on the world map towards an unfriendly giant.


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