In Competition No. 2367 you were invited to supply an imaginary extract from the libretto of the flop musical Oscar Wilde. ‘I am going to stand my ground and fight,/ The things you two do just can’t be right,’ sang the Marquess to Bosie in that ill-starred production. Criticised for his lyrics, the author, Mike Read, loftily retorted, ‘Rhyming couplets didn’t do Shakespeare or Gilbert and Sullivan much harm.’ There was a tricky contradiction in my request for something that would both amuse readers and make them squirm with embarrassment: some of you were too polished to embarrass and others too clumsy to entertain; still others offered lyrics that it was hard to imagine being sung. The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, and the Cobra Premium beer goes to Ray Kelley.
Lord Alfred Douglas, solo:
When I read your sonnet,
I shed salt tears upon it
To find you hymned my slim gilt soul
And red rose-leaf lips:
Phrases meant for Bosie
And not for parkers nosy,
The sort who have the face to launch
A thousand coarse quips.
When the pure and good
When morality’s banality,
Debasing your art, seeks to keep us apart,
Just ignore the parsons,
Never mind the Carsons,
And know your own boy holds for you
A place in his heart.
Bosie: Ah, Oscar!
Oscar: Bravo! Tango!
Bosie: Let’s dance the night away!
Oscar: If you just knew how I felt, sir,
You would down your hock and seltzer —
Bosie: And never mind the Queensberry bouquet!
Oscar: Dearest, hold me —
Bosie: As in Earnest?
Let us bunbury for fun!
Oscar: I shall be your Aunt Augusta,
And with all the wit I muster —
Every wag shall know you are the Chosen One.
Both: We’re as solid as a sandbag, and as happy as a handbag,
We have nothing but our genius to declare.
Though the Marquess is a heckler, we are fans of fin-de-siècle:
Salomé! Beaujolais! Baudelaire!
I am Oscar, a man about town.
I’m a wit and I like the renown.
In no time at all I make people feel small,
For I love to put everyone down, ha ha!
Oh, I love to put everyone down.
I am Oscar, a bit of a cad.
My mockery drives people mad.
It’s themselves that they see, but they blame it on me
And believe I am totally bad, ha ha!
They believe I am totally bad.
I am Oscar, an elegant swell,
And my plays are all going down well.
But it rather annoys when they say I love boys.
Is it true? Well, I’d better not tell, oh, no!
I had certainly better not tell.
Give me your answer, do!
I’m in chokey,
All for the love of you!
My cell could not be much snugger,
’cos I’ve been a silly bugger.
Time drags like a month of Sundays
So I’m writing a ‘De Profundis’,
But one fine day
We’ll move to LA
Or a condo in Malibu.
They’ll invent the horseless carriage,
And legalise gay marriage,
So let’s make it a date,
Though we might have to wait
For a century or two.
Oscar: My dear Bosie, life is rosy and if people think us posy
Just remember we belong to the elite.
You’re so pretty, I’m so witty, that’s the substance of this ditty,
So who cares if we’re regarded as effete?
We’re a scandal they can’t handle, but they couldn’t hold a candle
To my genius and your delightful youth.
Though your father’s in a lather, let him rant and rave and blather;
He can’t rain on our parade, and that’s the truth.
You’re a charmer, I write drama, and it’s manifest our karma
Is to be the names on everybody’s tongue.
All the sneerers and the jeerers may insinuate we’re queer as
Richard’s hatband, but our withers are unwrung.
Chorus: Oh, they’re boozers and they’re cruisers, but this couple will be losers
When in court the evil Marquess has his day.
We may understand a blunder by a straight guy — that’s no wonder —
But a fellow on the other bus? No way!
Oscar: Oh, Bosie, will you love me just the same?
Bosie: I shall, with love that dares not speak its name.
Constance: Oh, horrors! What a complicated tangle!
Oscar: Poor Constance? Cornered, caught in love’s tri-angle!
Bosie: Fear not! In time our bishops might be gay.
Constance: No, not if Bosie’s father gets his way.
Oscar: That cad, whose viper’s venom put me here!
Bosie: Quite so, I fear. It all seems rather queer.
Constance: Oh, horrors! What a complicated mess.
Oscar: Poor Constance! How she suffers in distress!
Bosie: What about your ever-loving Bosie?
Constance: And what of me? My future’s not too rosy.
Oscar: For killing those I love I’m off to Reading.
Bosie: He’s right, it’s off to Reading Oscar’s heading.
Constance: Oh, horrors! Such a fall for one so haughty!
All together: What a price we pay for being naughty!
No. 2370: Benison or bane?
You are invited to supply a poem (maximum 16 lines) expressing either approval or disapproval of the habit of smoking. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2370’ by 2 December.