What, dear reader, do these two photographs have in common?
A pylon if ever I saw one
So wrote W.H. Auden and three years later Stephen Spender wrote a whole poem called simply "The Pylons". So fond were these thirties poets of Egyptian gateways that they were later known as the Pylon School of poetry.
Betjeman, who was not of the Pylon School, reacted thus:
Encase your legs in nylons
Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul
For myself, I have always been rather fond of pylons. The discipline of structural necessity gives them elegance. They seem like great elegant giants striding single-file across the countryside. If Don Quixote were alive today, I am certain that he would charge them and not windmills.
It is a frailty of the aesthetic sense that people rarely appreciate beauty when it is necessary. The Roman aqueducts that tourists now gawp at would have been eyesores in their time. A hideous necessity cutting across the pastoral valleys. Windmills were once no more picturesque than windfarms, because they were necessary structures.
I was once being talked at by a terrible bore who was explaining how he had done up his horrid little house in the countryside. He had preserved at great expense some old contraption for grinding corn. I was not interested. I was gazing at the line of pylons that waddled magnificently from one horizon to the other. He noticed my inattention, noticed the pylons and said "Yes, they're horribly ugly, aren't they? Completely ruin the view. But anyway, the corn would have gone in here and then this handle...."
Which only goes to prove what I have always believed: beauty is utility plus a few hundred years.
The march of the giants
P.S. A pylon can also be an artificial limb, or a prologue.
*The opening chorus of The Dog Beneath the Skin