Michael Vince Poems Contact

Twelve Poems of Michael Vince

photo of Michael Vince in Rome


BYRON’S ALBANIAN  COSTUME


From Journeys


Dressing up is hard to do

if we mean by this to become like others,

to belong to the background of the portrait

by having grown out of its mountain fastnesses

rather than having travelled in by air

for a fortnight’s break.


The fashion of the time,

which shows us a public school nabob clothed

in the robes of a Hindustani prince,

declares that the milords and gentlemen

of northern realms have opened the gates of Christendom

to a civilised Other, this rational prince

whose beliefs are allowed to be

of a different colour. That Greeks were noble once

is a commonplace of a Harrow morning

and to discover their virtues thriving

more convincingly in distant climates

than at the knees of King George

is a matter of observation,

even in the mountains of Albania.


So the costume declares

both respect for difference

and allegiance to unchanging principles:

these are men, by George!


Even if in this case the ensemble

is a pick and mix of sartorial elegance

designed to increase the stature,

slim down the tendency to plumpness

and hide that awkward foot.


There’s time enough for a portrait

of his lordship as a noble chieftain,

a contribution to his image in posterity,


and after death, while the statues stay fresh,

the fabled costume lies folded in a press,


only disturbed when a child insists


Let’s Dress Up.