The Ballad of Nobby the Nuancebot

Down in the green fields of Islington
A couple of leagues from old Goldsmith’s
There once were a tinker named Toynbee
And now this were the song what he tink’d with

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Now old tinker Arthur is the eldest of Toynbees
But no renowned history scholar is he
He only crafts narratives, or discourse post-hegemonic
Eh bien! Islington, mais c’est une belle vie!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Arthur the grand old man’s renowned by the world
From ten leagues or more do they run
And everyone’s welcome at old Arthur’s workshop
Well, provided they don’t read The Sun!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Now Arthur’s a genial old fellow
He never reads Hayek nor Marx
T’were naught but Jacques Baudrillard or the NUS newsletter
Though Nasrallah may also throw sparks

O heigh ho, Nobby! Heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Now Arthur is tired of debating
It’s too easy to win every time
His idiot adversaries use mere logic and reason
But Arthur? Grand ditties and rhymes

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Now tis a poor kind of arguing quoth Arthur
To appeal to the mere facts of the matter
For what’s true in the morning just ain’t true in the evening
Science or art? I suppose it’s the latter!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Now Arthur was never the wrong one
Such mediocrity could ne’er be his vision
Why not be greater than all? To be beyond right and wrong?
Aye, and tramp down mere bourgeois precision?

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Aye, so Nobby was weary… O alack and alay!
He’d never found an enemy who could carry the day!
So he must needs find a robot, to be his epiphenomenon
Don’t ask what that means, because we’ve had quite enough droning on

O heigh ho, Nobby! Heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

So he trudged down to his workshop, and what did he find?
I’m not just any tinker, I’ll ‘ave thee bear in mind!
There’s no greater fabricator of ‘beyond sound and hollow’
Than Arthur the craftsman, so my assertions tha’ll swallow!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Arthur sought his materials for a most curious fashioning
Virtue’s wisdom did spur his designs and his haste
Ah, one day my robot will be the best of debaters
Albeit, hierarchical value judgments do be in pretty bad taste!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Old Toynbee picked up some iron from an old fascist missile
And ten pounds of Soviet string
Some oil from an oilfield in Daeshi Iraq
And a few other curious things

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

But nothing was worthy of Arthur’s great talent
He hummed and he hawed as night fell
Even Nazis and Soviets and Political Islamists
Appear not to be helping so well!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

But then a grand inspiration did seize craftsman Toynbee
He shook with a pride beyond telling
I can craft mine own truthiness, and mine own post-authenticity
O Nobby, now set thee to felling ‘em!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Arthur gazed at his navel, and he rubbed thirteen times
If mere bourgeois arithmetic we may dare to believe
He rubbed down below, and he rubbed up again
And mopped his old brow with yon sleeve

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

All of a sudden, a boom and a flash
O circle that Sunday in red!
Why bother with tools of mere material artifice
When you can conjure it up in your head, instead?

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

With a grunt and a wheeze, ever eager to please,
Arthur’s robot did grind into action
He bobbed to one side, and then to the other
O what a fine metropolitan Anglo-Saxon!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Will tha serve me forever? Will tha be my good baby?
Will tha never betray me and never forsake me?
Now the robot did birl and did reel on his ankles
And eventually ground out a ‘maybe!’

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

At this dear old Arthur erupted in glee,
He foresaw a new spring in his winter
This equivocal robot was ‘beyond wrong and correct,’
O great Iron Jesuit! Why, bless mine old splinters!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

“It’s about five o’clock. Or maybe thirteen?”
Nobby grunted, with semblance of spirit.
Yet, alive and pedantic as old Nobby seemed
He was dead inside. But who would dare think it?

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

All through the night Arthur questions his robot
O pedantic his interrogation!
But nothing rocks Nobby. For though his feet be unsteady
He’s pedantic without qualification.

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

IRA? “Please, more empathy!”
FGM? “Let’s be tolerant!”
Hamas bombings? “Well, hm!”
Stalin? “Before, peasants choked!”
Khmer Rouge killing fields? “Yes, but…”
SWP? “Is it trumped up?”
Myanmar junta? “Don’t judge.”
Charlie Hebdo? “Provoked!”

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Soon Nobby the Nuancebot is the toast of the town
There’s not one but admires his great wisdom
Well, apart from the proles, and the plebeian scum
But who cares? Let them foam mid their schisms!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

But as time went on, Nobby’s day in the sun
Depleted and waned, like a grieving old moon
The villagers started to mutter and groan
And some even murmured ‘Shall we be done with him soon?’

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

And Arthur’s friends all grew distant. Arthur’s sad and perplexed.
What fell spirit had cast this inglorious hex?
Arthur’s never been wrong, so he deserves their respect.
And, how dare they treat Nobby with such withering contempt!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Time did wear on, and things only got worse.
The blight of good feeling now affects even his purse.
At the market they cheat him, at the tavern they beat him
It’s just his handsome old Nuancebot what dares never mistreat him

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Well, one day poor Arthur awoke with a start
Some premonition of horror did seize him
He ran to the cellar, trotted fleet as he may
And, O! How he’d feared this last dreadful conclusion!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O it’s grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’ll prevail
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Ah! This poor little robot, the gentlest of souls
Lay smashed in a heap, like a bucket of scrap
O! Automaton genial, free of all malice and hatred
Was treated worse than a Judas… now then, just fancy that!

O heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
O t’were once grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust to prevail
O carry old Nobby away!

Arthur sank to the floor and he cried and he wept
His earnest grief was repaid though, with sneering contempt
Arthur’s last years were misery, to his very last breath
Sore of heart, Arthur starved! No man cried at his death.

O heigh, ho, Arthur! O heigh ho, Arthur away!
O t’were once grand to find nuance,
In virtue’s joust I’d prevail
O heigh ho Arthur away!

Well, it seems that for nuance, there’s a time and a place
But not everyone appreciates it being shoved in their face!
Aye! Nuance needs nuance, it’s no cure for all seasons.
So don’t be like Arthur… go for logic and reason!

O well heigh, ho, Nobby! O heigh ho, Nobby away!
Now Nobby shall never upset us no more…
O heigh ho Nobby away!

Image attribution:

https://pixabay.com/en/head-face-robot-cyborg-artificial-3088623/

If you want support my commentary and critique, please consider contributing to my Patreon, where this poem was first published:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/ballad-of-nobby-16644369

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