Saturday, 16 February 2013

Oscar Pistorius meets Polly Vaughan

Apropos of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, here's another little song for you.  It's an old English folk song that goes by the name Polly Vaughan, Polly Von, Molly Bond or other variations thereof.  Here's a version by Anne Briggs.



Come all you young fellows that handle a gun
Beware how you shoot when the night's coming on
For young Jimmy met his true love, he mistook her for a swan
And he shot her and killed her by the setting of the sun


As Polly was walking all in a shower of rain
She sheltered in a green bush, her beauty to save
With her apron throwed over her he mistook her for a swan
And he shot her and killed her by the setting of the sun


Then home ran young Jimmy with his dog and his gun
Crying Uncle dear Uncle have you heard what I done?
I met my own true love, I mistook her for a swan
And I shot her and killed her by the setting of the sun


Then out rushed his uncle with his locks hanging grey
Crying Jimmy oh dear Jimmy don't you run away
Don't leave your own country 'til the trial do come on
For they never will hang you for the shooting of a swan


All the girls of this country, they're all glad we know
To see young Polly Vaughan brought down so low
You could take them cruel girls and set them in a row
And her beauty would outshine 'em like a fountain of snow


Well the trial wore on, and Polly's ghost did appear
Crying Uncle dear Uncle let Jimmy go clear
For my apron was thrown 'round me, he mistook me for a swan
And he never would have shot his own Polly Vaughan




Now Pistorius may or may not have shot Reeva Steenkamp by accident, and may or may not have even claimed to have done so.  Either way, Jimmy's story about the shooting of Polly seems highly suspicious.  In what sense did she, a young woman with an apron over her head, resemble a swan even in the fading light?  What would a swan be doing hiding under a tree from a rain shower? 

And notice how, after this feeble attempt to shift the blame to the light, the apron and the birdlife he even more outrageously shifts responsibility to the other young girls against whom he harbours a deep and unreasonable resentment.  If I was the judge I would be sending Jimmy to jail, ghostly testimony notwithstanding.  We all know that for various reasons victims of domestic violence often defend their partner, hoping to repair the relationship even when it is obvious to everyone else that it would be best to get as far away as possible.

Pistorius deserves our admiration for his athletic feats, and nothing can take that away from him.  He does not deserve our admiration, or even our tolerance, for being a paranoid gun-nut.  Reeva Steenkamp is dead, and nothing will bring her back.  The joy she would have brought her family and her wide circle of friends, the children she may have borne, the entertainment she may have provided to millions of South Africans, the fun and fulfillment she might have found in her own life, will never be. 

However it came about and whatever happens next, Pistorius will have live with that for the rest of his life.  Well may he weep  Well may we all weep.

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