Not My Best Side by U.A. Fanthorpe

I really like this poem by the late UA Fanthorpe. It’s called Not my best side, and is based on Uccello’s painting St George and the Dragon, which can be seen at the National Gallery inLondon. The poem’s three stanzas are monologues from each of the three characters depicted in the painting – the dragon, the maiden and the knight respectively. I love the way it subverts the our stereotypes of the characters. Sice reading this poem I have never thought of the maiden in quite the same way:

I

Not my best side, I’m afraid.

The artist didn’t give me a chance to

Pose properly, and as you can see,

Poor chap, he had this obsession with

Triangles, so he left off two of my

Feet. I didn’t comment at the time

(What, after all, are two feet

To a monster?) but afterwards

I was sorry for the bad publicity.

Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror

Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride

A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?

Why should my victim be so

Unattractive as to be inedible,

And why should she have me literally

On a string? I don’t mind dying

Ritually, since I always rise again,

But I should have liked a little more blood

To show they were taking me seriously.

II

It’s hard for a girl to be sure if

She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite

Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be

Liked, if you know what I mean. He was

So nicely physical, with his claws

And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,

And the way he looked at me,

He made me feel he was all ready to

Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.

So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,

On a really dangerous horse, to be honest

I didn’t much fancy him. I mean,

What was he like underneath the hardware?

He might have acne, blackheads or even

Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–

Well, you could see all his equipment

At a glance. Still, what could I do?

The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,

And a girl’s got to think of her future.

III

I have diplomas in Dragon

Management and Virgin Reclamation.

My horse is the latest model, with

Automatic transmission and built-in

Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,

And my prototype armour

Still on the secret list. You can’t

Do better than me at the moment.

I’m qualified and equipped to the

Eyebrow. So why be difficult?

Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued

In the most contemporary way? Don’t

You want to carry out the roles

That sociology and myth have designed for you?

Don’t you realize that, by being choosy,

You are endangering job prospects

In the spear- and horse-building industries?

What, in any case, does it matter what

You want? You’re in my way.

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