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the Pale

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(3) The Illustrated In Held 'Twas in I • 1971

''Twas Teatime at the Circus' • Carole M Hassan

This third tondo design is as dynamic as its two predecessors are static, a distinction that neatly mirrors Procol Harum's sudden shift in tempo and dynamics as 'Twas Teatime at the Circus begins. The abundance of concrete imagery in Keith Reid's lyric almost obliges the illustrator to reach for a literal interpretation. Design considerations, however, have obliged Carole M Hassan to focus on relatively few of the circus phenomena named in the song. Centre-stage, as it were, are the bulging hindquarters of a circus stallion, its tail braided close to the croup, vouchsafing us 'glimpses of pudenda'. The tack is decorative: a star-spangled circingle, a halter topped with a plume; the mane is plaited and equipped with six small bells.

The riderless beast is apparently cantering, widdershins, and could well be on a collision course with the female trapeze artist, in her balletic attire. both she and the animal are facing away from the viewer; intriguingly, we shall not see any open eyes in this series until the Grand Finale illustration. Our aerial gymnast is not engaged in any particularly diverting manoeuvres, yet the audience – and it is a packed house – appear to be clutching at their hearts in apprehension, those who have limbs! Much of the crowd is represented by the simple device of recurring circles, a favourite of this artist. The terrain under the horse's hooves looks like pellets or gravel, but close inspection shows that some of the circles there contain alphabetical letters: in particular the word 'Hoorah' maybe discerned, just under the arena recinct with its characteristic triangular tessellated pattern. Lastly the small group of token spotlights, a motif drawn directly from the libretto, is rendered with deliberate naïveté, the beams emerging from the lenses at an improbable angle. There is no sign of 'Jerry the King' in this illustration: doubtless if those words had been interpreted correctly, as 'King Jimi', a very different illustration might have ensued.


Read about the origins of this illustration | The text of the illustration (variants highlighted)


'Twas tea-time at the circus: Jerry the King was there
Through hoops he skipped, high wires he tripped, and all the while the glare
of the naking, aching spotlights beat down upon his cloak
and though the crowd clapped furiously they could not see the joke

'Twas tea-time at the circus, though some might not agree
as jugglers danced, and horses pranced and clowns clowned endlessly
The trunk to tear the elephants quite silent, never spoke
and though the crowd clapped desparately [sic] they did not see the joke


Right, the illustration as it appears on the photocopy sent to Procol Harum in 1971

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