Poetry and art in the UK Supreme Court
It appears from the UK Supreme Court website that the Justices of the court commissioned a poem from former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion to mark its opening.
The poem goes as follows:
Tides tumbled sand through seas long-lost to earth;
Sand hardened into stone – stone cut, then brought
To frame the letter of four nations’ laws
And square the circle of a single court.
Here Justice sits and lifts her steady scales
Within the Abbey’s sight and Parliament’s
But independent of them both. And bound
By truth of principle and argument.
A thousand years of judgment stretch behind –
The weight of rights and freedoms balancing
With fairness and with duty to the world:
The clarity time-honoured thinking brings.
New structures but an old foundation stone:
The mind of Justice still at liberty
Four nations separate but linked as one:
The light of reason falling equally.
The poem appears to refer obliquely to the Supreme Court emblem or logo (left), which is explained thus on the website:
"The emblem combines four heraldic elements, equally represented in the design, reflecting the jurisdictions within the United Kingdom:
England: a symmetrical five-petalled wild rose, with stalk and leaves, an English symbol since the Tudor dynasty
Wales: the green leaves of a leek, deriving from the medieval legend that St David ordered his Welsh soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets during a battle against the Saxons
Scotland: a purple thistle, associated with the tradition that an early Scottish army was saved when barefooted Viking invaders stepped on prickly thistles in the dark, crying out in pain and waking the defenders
Northern Ireland: a light blue five-petalled flax flower, representing the linen-weaving industry which was so valuable that nineteenth century Belfast was known as ‘Linenopolis’
These four national elements are embraced by an almost-circular frame representing both Libra, the scales of justice, and Omega, symbolising the final source of justice for the United Kingdom.
At its most formal level, the Royal Crown surmounts the emblem, as the Monarch is the source of The Supreme Court’s authority."
All good stuff (although not quite perhaps in the same league as the Albie Sachs gallery otherwise known as the Constitutional Court of South Africa). The artwork in the Supreme Court is, one suspects, mostly a hangover from the building's past as the Middlesex Guildhall, although in Court 1 a pop art carpet by Sir Peter Blake (who a long time ago designed the cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album) covers the floor in a pattern again evoking the four nations (above right). But one fears that in these straitened times it may be a while before a more fully representative selection of art (modern and not necessarily portraiture or indeed paintings?) from each of the four nations becomes a possibility for the court.
A final thought: what becomes of the poem and the emblem if, following Professor Neil Walker's review of the appeal from Scotland to the Supreme Court, the Scottish jurisdiction disappears?