Oh dear! I always seem to be putting out this sort of 'intellectual thing', you know, I'm always spouting about music and history and keep on reciting poetry, so that by now people are constantly asking me who is my favourite writer, and even though it's obviously my own fault I am beginning to get just a little peeved by the repetition. So to crush this bug in the bud, as it were, I will tell all of you, and hope that you will tell everyone else.
My absolute most favourite-ist writer in the whole wide world is Orrm . Orrm (spelt O R R M---and getting that spelling right is very important as you will see in about two minutes and twenty nine seconds) was, as I'm sure you know, an early thirteenth century Englishman who wrote a poem called the Orrmulum.
Now I should make something clear right from the start - Orrm's poem, as far as we know the only one he ever wrote, is not one of my favourite writings. It is demonstrably the most boring poem in English literature, possibly even in any literature, and it does go on a bit. It is 20,000 lines long as it stands and there is good evidence that, as luck would have it, we have lost some 140,000 lines from the end. No doubt the lost 140,000 lines were the best 140,000 lines but even if they were the betting is we haven't lost much. No, unfortunately poor Orrm (who sometimes called himself Orrmin spelled O R R M I N------and getting THAT spelling right is very important too, as you will see in about one minutes and thirty two seconds) belonged to that school of writing which holds that if a thing is worth saying it is worth saying repeatedly. He combines an industry which is astounding with a lack of talent which is stupefying. Just listen to a selection of academics on Orrm:-
on the metre - "The metre is the septenary, rhymeless, monotonously regular with 15 syllables, and soporific"
or the subject - "What is the Orrmulum? The author tells us that he has attempted with the little wit that the Lord has lent him - unfortunately not an understatement - to explain to ignorant folk most of the gospels that are read in the Mass throughout the year"
or this, which just seems gratuitous, - "It must be admitted that in literary value the Orrmulum approaches what the physicist calls absolute zero. It is very tedious. Orrm was careful not to overestimate the intelligence of his hearers, and he explains the obvious at painful length."
Now why, apart from the faint hope that it would get a cheap laugh, would I claim to like the author of such an immensely boring immensity? Listen for a moment, and maybe you will start to like him too (though I don't think even then you'll rush out to buy his book).
Poor old Orrm is devastatingly earnest, sincere, ...and oblivious, and therein lies his appeal. There is something he generates simply because he is lousy, some yearning for him to have had talent which leaves me with an overwhelming nostalgia for lost failure. He is all of human frailty. Anyone, and this is probably the whole point of this essay, anyone who could bother to devise a precise and regular method of spelling in an age when spelling was not highly regarded, and to apply it with consistency and accuracy in order to make it easy to read out loud a vast poem that no one in his right mind would read out loud for fear of lynching, needs every friend he can get. And Orrm, wherever you are - I'm that friend for this century!
Now I bet you would love to hear a bit of the Orrmulum, though after that build-up it's bound to be a bit of an anticlimax:
This is from the dedication to his brother Walt:
Nu broþerr Wallterr, broþerr min, afterr þe flæsshess kinde,I'd better say --- Cheerio for n... OW!
Annd broþerr min i Crisstenndom þurrh fulluhht annd þurrh trowwþe
Annd broþerr min i Godess hus, yet o the ðride wise... ..
Ahh don't throw that! Ow! Ow!
from Richard H..Ow!..land-Bolton.
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