by Chris "Childe Harold" Oakley
"Zounds, Shelley, what rhymes with ‘Vodaphone’?"
The wicked lord pushed back, half-consumed the plate of supernaturally hot Vindaloo, giving his half-sister Augusta seated next to him a hearty rub in the process. Shelley stared ceilingwards, watching the patterns that the infernal flames made on the ceiling. Byron put his hand on Augusta’s knee.
"Gad, Perse, it’s a crying shame that there’s no nookie down here in hell. Why, if I was still alive, by now I’d have rip…"
"Well I told you not to expect it," interrupted Shelley quickly. "We can still write poetry, and there is a whole world of creativity out there waiting to be explored." He did not sound very convinced, but was anxious to keep Byron off his favourite subject for a few minutes longer. "Scone? Crone? Drone? I don’t know. What are you writing, anyway?"
"It’s a lament for the lack of romantic heroism in Yuppie London nowadays. It starts by pointing out that my antique carriage is miles better than a Lotus Elan any day."
"It’s not as fast."
"Yes it is. Faster if you take account of the traffic jams. And you don’t get pulled by pigs, either. In any case, that’s not the point."
"What is the point, then?"
"Style. Class. Being a true artist. There’s only one kind of artist that these drongos understand. The p—"
"Yes, I know. And there verse is terrible. Were you at the last Byron Society?"
At the mention of the Byron Society, Lord Byron’s hackles rose visibly. His face distorted into an expression of the uttermost rage.
"The Byron Society! The Byron Society!?" screamed the outraged nobleman, scattering chapattis and silverware with a sweep of his hand, and simultaneously kicking the hapless waiter with his club foot for emphasis. "They’re lucky that I’m dead. If I wasn’t, my god, I’d … OW!!"
He clutched his left foot in pain.
"George, you know you shouldn’t kick the servants with your left foot. It’s bound to hurt," cooed Augusta, not looking up from her scarlet painted nails.
Mary Shelley, opposite, working on a book entitled Frankenstein: The truth is stranger than fiction, was too wrapped up in what she was doing to pay attention.
"… and one of these clowns, name of Hoey," continued Byron, "writes the worst drivel I have ever had the ill fortune to read. It just seems to pour out. Page after page, ream after ream of nothing but obscene prattlings!"
He stared uneasily at his foot, now optimistically immersed in a bucket of warm lager. Another waiter, replete with shiny horns, a scarlet tail, and a salver of poppadums sidled up to the table.
"Oh my my sir. Telephone for you. Thank-you very much, please."
It was Satan. Byron hated getting telephone calls from the Prince of Darkness as he could never understand his patter.
"Hey dude, I don’t know where you’re at but I got the line that there’s something going down at Oxon space an’ it’s gonna be aahsumm. I mean AAHH-SUMM. Like cool an’ groov-o-matic, kid. They’re gonna be trippin’, T-R-I-P ping. Hey, baby, like do you wanna do that thing?"
Byron could make out none of this.
"Yes … er … certainly. I’ll see what … er … I can do. Thank-you very much."
He wanted to find out more, but Satan had already hung up. Fortunately, Shelley, the hipper of the two, had overheard.
"He’s saying that there’s going to be a Black Tie dinner at Luna Caprese Restaurant, North Parade, Oxford, 7.30p.m. for 8.00p.m. on Saturday, 21st November 1992, and that those who attend are requested to write Byronic verse."
Shelley did not dare tell Byron that this was going to be a Byron Society event. Byron shook his head. He doubted whether he would ever really be able to understand Surf Talk. But then, he thought, such a thing could not reasonably be expected of a darling of the English romantic movement like himself.
"Byronic verse? What exactly does he mean by that? Are they going to copy out my poems? They had better be careful as they have been deposited in the copyright libraries in the fifth circle of hell, and the penalties are strict. Seven nights of being visited by a succubus or an incubus, according to sex. But then again they might enjoy…" He stopped, suddenly pensive.
"No, what it means is this," explained Shelley. "They can write anything they like, but the tradition is to write a poem based on the rhyme scheme and scansion of one of yours, or mine, or any of the Romantic Poets, and produce a parodic one which is full of cheap humour at the expense of others around the table."
"Give me an example."
"Well, this is the second stanza from Childe Danny’s Pilgrimage:
Whilome in Trin’ty College dwelt a youth,
Who ne in virtues ways did take delight;
But vex’d the MCR so oft, in truth,
They made him Pres. in hopes to ease their plight;
Hopes vain! Fulsome folly! And not so bright
To pick a shameless youth, a London lad,
Disciple of sin, and worshipper of night!
In tatty tweeds was he perpetua’ly clad,
To match his stillborn verses, which were always bad!"
"Well, if that is about Danny Henrey, the Overlord of the Byron Society, and erstwhile president of Trinity MCR, then I would say that it was quite flattering." Suddenly Byron realised the significance of what he was saying and rushed out of the room in a terrible temper, leaving Shelley to pay the bill.
Shelley looked at the bill. In hell, like Harrods, extortion is the understood way of doing business. The meal for four came to a quarter soul, or two years for one person at gas mark nine. Shelley groaned at the prospect of the long hours of haggling ahead.
"I wish I could go to a Byron Society dinner," he thought.