The Perfect Statue (a story)Posted: 7 February 2011
“I see you’re looking at our statue. Nice, isn’t it? Perfect, so they say. Aye, it was perfect where it was, if you ask me. Stood here for well over 150 years, it has, and then they pluck it out of the ground to move it a few metres up the hill – and why? – so they can squeeze more market stalls into the square. Makes you wonder what’s more important these days, doesn’t it. All they seem to care about is making money; hundreds of years of history can go and take a hike.
But I described it as perfect, didn’t I. See that man sitting on the horse, all decked out in his hussar gear? He wasn’t even from round here. It’s a story in itself how he ended up as a statue in Durham. To cut a long story short, the guy owned some pits round here and founded Seaham port. So I guess it’s fair enough.
The man who made the statue was a proud one too. So they say, he was so pleased by the job he’d done on this statue that he stood up there on its plinth and declared to one and all to come and find a fault in it. No one would have paid any mind, but he went on about it so much that the people round about became determined to prove him wrong.
All sorts of people tried their luck with the statue. Market sellers, butchers, saddlers, publicans, drunkards, people passing through, even military men and horse-doctors; you name it, they came. None of them could find a fault, either. As far as they were concerned, the statue was perfect. The sculptor was so puffed up on his own pride that he believed he was the best at his job in the whole country.
It so happened that a blind man arrived in Durham market not long after. By this point the sculptor had stopped his daily ‘proclamations from the mount’, but the blind man heard about it from the people in the square. They told him of the only perfect statue in the country, of its sculptor’s challenge and how no one had been able to find anything wrong with it.
He listened to what they said, then he replied, “Take me to this man, I’ll try.”
The people laughed and told him, “You, my friend, are blind! What makes you think you’ll succeed in finding a fault when others more able than you haven’t?”
But the blind man wouldn’t give in and at last they took him to the sculptor. He laughed at the blind man too, but he smiled and said he would still see the statue for himself. “As you wish!” said the sculptor, and the people took the blind man to the statue, lifted him up onto the plinth and left him there overnight.
When morning came they came back to lift the blind man down and ask him if he’d found a fault on the statue. He said he had. Well, no one expected this. When they asked him what that was, he said, “The horse has no tongue!”.
When they looked at the horse they saw it was true, and when the sculptor got wind of this, he was so distraught he hanged himself. I guess that’s what you could call ‘pride before a fall’!
Still. Shame on them for moving it, and painting it black too. It’s made of copper, and copper’s meant to go green! We said we didn’t want it moving, and fat lot of notice they took of us. But at least it’s still in one piece after they’ve finished fiddling with it, thank god.”
Photo credit: Off The Beaten Track