The Fox’s Prophecy


Charles Moore in his Spectator column this week recalls listening to Tristan Voorspuy recite The Fox’s Prophecy when he went on safari with him in Kenya. As you will have read, Tristan Voorspuy was murdered on his farm in Kenya and Charles Moore remembers him with affection.

The Fox’s Prophecy was written in 1871 and is well worth reading when you have quarter of an hour or so to spare. The link will take you to it and you may find both the poem and its authorship of relevance and interest. I would dearly like to be able to recite it by heart but know such a feat of memory is beyond me. The Duke of Beaufort wrote in his foreword to the 1930 edition; “many of the views offered by the old Berkeley fox have become curiously and prophetically true.” They have become even truer now, nearly 150 years after they were written.

I will be staying in Gloucestershire next week. If my host and hostess should happen to read this they might print out a copy of the poem and it could be recited after dinner, each diner reading a verse and passing it around the table.

A friend recently told me that when people tell him about their ailments he calls it an Organ Recital. Which reminds me that when I was at a Piano Recital last month, I Did It Steinway, I mused on when musicians play without music. Tom Ponsonby has got me up to speed on this arcane subject. Here is what he has to say.

… as for performance & memory: I told you that solo pianists in recital, or playing a concerto, almost always play from memory. Trumpeters, woodwind players, violinists and ‘cellists play concerti from memory. Recital singers also sing from memory though their accompanying pianist always has the score. String quartets always play from the score, even if they have played Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok quartets hundreds of times. The only exception in my experience was the wonderful Smetana Quartet who used the score except when playing their own Czech composers, Janacek, Dvorak, Smetana. As a sign of devotion to their homeland and to those great composers who were nationalist, in the sense that they broke away from the Austro/German tradition, which included Brahms, and composed using Bohemian and Moravian folk music as an inspiration. I used to wonder whether the Smetana Quartet were also making a point about their regard for Czech music whilst under Soviet domination. And thinking of Russians, I mentioned the great Sviatoslav Richter who did put the score on the music stand when giving solo piano recitals. I remember one of his last, perhaps even his last, London recital at the Barbican or the South Bank (unable to check which) where the hall was in almost total darkness and he had an Anglepoise lamp on the piano to light the pages.

Thank you TP and here is Sviatoslav Richter in action

3 thoughts on “The Fox’s Prophecy”

  1. I expect you will also be campaigning for the restitution of the original verse 3 of All Things Bright and Beautiful: The richman in his castle etc..
    If your host and hostess in Gloucestershire are happening to read this, I hope they will save the delights of intercourse poetry reading for either Monday or Wednesday night.
    I will concede that there are some great lines to appeal to the most reactionary of your readers and to amuse the rest of us.

    1. I can visualise the scene: the ladies in the drawing room singing ATB&B while the men pass port and poetry clockwise in the dining room.

  2. Christopher, this story reminds me of some other prophetic foxes; those of Gormanston Castle, Co. Meath. The story goes that local foxes would foretell of the imminent death of a Viscount Gormanston by gathering menacingly around the house.
    The family Coat of Arms contains a fox.

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