…a maxim named for a Franciscan friar,
William of Ockham, from the Surrey village –
and from London, Oxford, Avignon,
Munich – Pope’s enemy, Emperor’s friend,
dying just as the Black Death was scourging.
It is a metaphor, not logic chopping –
best summarised, perhaps, as ‘less is more’,
‘don’t over-egg the pudding’, even
‘fine words butter no parsnips’. He was
the radical philosopher of his age,
a nominalist – words are words, ideas
ideas, no more, no less. Plato, relinquo!
Avoiding an A3 rush hour traffic jam,
I drove through Ockham one rainy night,
watching the headlights follow the bendy turns
of the old field system and glisten
on the hedgerows and the oaks, and I thought
of the little boy, the brightest scholar
in the priest’s small school, being taken
for Mother Church’s future to London
in a jolting ox cart, his Latin
a passport through Europe.