Imagine 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens and nine geese. Imagine as well a field of grass, bordered — one supposes — by neat hedges, and three cows, three sheepdogs… ah, hold on. Better have those sheepdogs on the same side of the hedge as the sheep, shouldn’t we? Order in all things, one assumes.
Where were we? Ah, yes. Two goats, as well, and a plow.
Sounds “green and pleasant,” eh? As “in England’s green and pleasant land,” from the poem/hymm Jerusalem, words by William Blake. Never mind that some of the other words in that poem evoke “dark, Satanic mills.” They’ll be none of those at the opening ceremonies of this summer’s Olympic Games.
There will be people, though — about 10,000 volunteers who’ve already rehearsed the opening ceremony 157 times. The sheep, horses and chickens merely have to be themselves out on that greensward. The people, on the other hand, will be changing into and out of 23,000 costumes and learning how to deal with some 3,000 props, not including the animals.
And more people. The Queen of England has been filmed, since she certainly couldn’t be expected to venture out among the chickens and cows. Daniel Craig will make an appearance as well, perhaps as James Bond, just in case villains turn up to steal the gold medals. Paul McCartney will be there, too… a former Beatle among the sheep, horses, and so on.
It all sounds like a quieter extravaganza than the pyrotechnics generated by previous Games, but the celebration will include a 27-ton bell forged in the 442-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry and bearing the words: “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises.”
That bit’s not Blake, by the way, but Shakespeare’s Caliban, the quasi-human critter in The Tempest whose ambitions include bashing in the head of his master, Prospero, and, with the unwilling assistance of Prospero’s daughter, peopling the island with little Calibans.
But never mind. The words are lovely, and the lines that follow even more so, and who can blame the organizers for wanting to work another of England’s great poets into the ceremony that about a billion people will be watching on television while 60,000 or so witness it in person?
At the end of the ceremony, that 27-ton bell will toll out what’s intended to be a hymn of peace, and then it will be the athletes’ turn to put on a show.