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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Can-Utility and the Coastliners - To Dust You Will Return

An immaculately early-Genesis track. Lots of fairly random organ solo, fair amount of violining leader guitar. And of course a story.

"The waves surround the sinking throne
Singing "Crown him, crown him,"
'Those who love
our majesty
show themselves!'
All bent their knees."

The story of Cnut at its prog-rockest.

King Cnut of England, Norway and Denmark. A North Sea emperor. But he, the story goes, got sick and tired of the sycophancy of his - OK, let's name then - sycophants. The exploit down by the sea was Cnut's attempt at satire. "All you fools tell me I'm so great - but I can't even turn the waves back."

And so Cnut could have gone down in the annals of people who are famous for being humble. But if that were the plan - and I'm not saying it were - then it failed.


How is Cnut known in popular mythology? As the fool who thought he could turn back the tide. His attempt to show humility has been turned into a story of vainglory. Not even as successful as Ozymandius, he has merely left us a story of foolishness and an anagram joke - whose variety apparently never fails - for the people who comment on Guardian web pages.

Of such is posterity. We cannot protect our "legacy" - think Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, tarnished as war criminal and bigot-hunter. Edward Heath - whose crimes in joining Europe, abolishing Huntingdonshire and giving parts of West Yorkshire to Oldham were heinous enough - is now remembered on the basis of unprovable post-mortem allegations. John Major - who never did much beyond the Cones Hotline - is remembered for a liaison with the Egg-woman. And he, Blair and Brown are still with us and protected by the libel laws.

Better to forget your legacy, mortals all. Love God, love your neighbour, and enjoy your life among this world of vanity. For dust you are, and to dust you will return. And your memory could well be worse.

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