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Came Forth Sweetness

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
I'm going to start this blog with a digression. I never thought of myself as a cruel child, but I wince slightly now in recounting the following tale from my formative years. When I was aged four and living (as I'm sure I've explained before) in deepest, darkest Africa, I used to collect toads and pop them into old Lyle's golden syrup tins, the lids of which my father had punctured with a few holes so the creatures could breathe. I think I must have imagined I was an intrepid explorer, scouring the continent for rare and exotic beasts and bringing my amazing finds home to base-camp, much to the wonderment of all.
I was certainly in the right locale; but toads were about as exotic a trophy as a four-year-old armed with a few syrup tins could expect to ensnare; and as for the wonderment element - which is the real point of telling this story - that consisted of presenting a tin to my younger brother (aged two) and enjoying his reaction as he pulled off the lid  and came forth not sweetness (as the famous logo proclaimed) but a toad, springing right up into his surprised face. It's a trick that, to my satisfaction, worked on more than one occasion. What can I say? Boys will be boys. No toads were harmed. Digression over.

Came Forth Sweetness

ye olde imperial measure golden syrup tin

I always took that instantly recognisable and usefully recyclable green and golden syrup tin for granted with its lion, its bees and its slogan 'out of the strong came forth sweetness'. It was only when I was mulling over ideas for this sugar  blog that I decided to delve a bit deeper - and here is what I found...
Take the lion in the picture. I always assumed he was sleeping contentedly (possibly after a heavy meal of treacle tart, one of my own favourites as a lad), but he is in fact dead. And those bees buzzing around his head aren't seeking out any last traces of treacle to be found on his magnificent muzzle and whiskers, they've been nesting and breeding in his corpse. Quite a shocker.
Abram Lyle, founding father of the East End sugar refining company that bore his name, was a very religious man and he took that slogan from a Bible story (Judges chapter 14 if you wish to check it out), which relates how Samson on a visit to select a bride from among the Philistines once tore a young lion apart with his bare hands and on re-passing the scene some considerable time later found bees nesting in the carcass, from which he extracted honey that he took home with him. That led him to pose the following riddle to the Philistines at his wedding feast: 'Out of the eater came forth food and out of the strong came forth sweetness.' After puzzling over this for three days the guests advised Samson's new wife to get him to expound on the meaning of the riddle or they would burn the house down. Ah, the old days, the old ways!
The image of the lion on the Lyle tin is based on a painting of 1849 by Sir Edwin Landseer, entitled 'The Desert' (or alternatively 'The Fallen Monarch'), reproduced below. The original can still be seen in Manchester Art Gallery.

Came Forth Sweetness

the lion sleeps forever

Sir Edwin was famous for his depictions of wild life in various media. His most well-known works are the sculptures of lions that stand at each corner of Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square. He was also much given to drugs and drink, suffered from depression and his family eventually had him certified insane.
Abram Lyle & Sons duly merged with England's other leading sugar-refining company Henry Tate & Sons in 1921 to form Tate & Lyle. In the previous century both of the firms' founding fathers had become millionaire sugar magnates and Tate's lasting benefaction (on his death in 1899) was to the world of the arts in the form of the Tate Gallery. In a curious way, that closed a circle.
I make a point of trying to avoid sugary foods, except for the occasional treat. Treacle tart remains one of my few sweet indulgences; not so easy to come by nowadays. In Egypt it's called 'palace bread' (if you ever need to ask). The finest treacle tart I ever had was at a pub in Moretonhampstead on the northern edge of Dartmoor. It was made with black treacle. That was over thirty years ago but remains a fond memory.
To wrap up this week's blog, a new poem - a work in progress (so subject to change) - a somewhat caustic commentary on La Dolce Vita, a tilt at the second estate and those who possess it or aspire to it.
The Sweet Life
Life on Quality Street boasts
an embarrassment of bitches;
the cream of Tory motherhood
has suckled the next clutch
of arrogant young bucks who
aspire to lord it over us;
their ancient double-barrelled names
already down for Cleversods,
that prestigious school-on-the-hill
where they'll learn how to be elite,
with bullying and buggery for sport,
get taught how to shoot, ride roughshod
and be ready to rule the world
unfolding at their precious feet.
Meanwhile on Quality Street,
behind those beds of roses
and bold front doors with CCTV,
fanlights and carriage lamps,
anachronistically a feudal world prevails
of nannies, butlers, cooks and maids
whose duty is to serve, but not observe
discreet affairs between masters and au pairs
or mistresses and fashionable beaus,
to make sure everything is laid out
on the plate precisely so the second estate,
whose members, ensconced, immune
from want or strife can thrive;
no shadow of austerity shall taint their lives.
With silver spoons in mouths
and later up their noses - one supposes -
the children of the privileged
will want for nothing but compassion
as they grow into their roles.
How elegantly debutantes
perform the ritual mating dance,
in season now and looking for a match
more based on money than romance.
Handsome but penniless won't cut it
unless the title's right;
coarse with a king's ransom might.
So history repeats itself,
the mystery of succession of the privileged.
They take their places on the boards
of hedge fund companies with offshore fortunes
well beyond the reach of law
or buy a safe seat in the House from where
with others of their ruthless kind
they legislate to decimate the Welfare State
in the interests of keeping things sweet
for their fellow residents on Quality Street.
Thanks for reading. Stay sassy and sharp, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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