Skip to Content

Competition Diversions


Lucy Vickery presents the latest competition

17 June 2009

12:00 AM

17 June 2009

12:00 AM

Lucy Vickery presents the latest competition

In Competition No. 2600 you were invited to submit a poem containing the first or last line ‘Whenever you see a rhinoceros’.

Inspiration for this comp came from Philip.mortimer (who signed himself with an email address only), who sent me a copy of a letter from Richard Jebb to the widowed American intellectual and socialite Carrie Slemmer, whom he later married. In it Jebb describes a dinner at which Robert Browning is a guest: ‘We were talking of English words that had no rhymes, and after instancing: silver, month, depth and false, Mr Browning asked for a rhyme to rhinoceros, which he presently supplied himself as follows: “Whenever you see a rhinoceros,/ If a tree be in sight, /Climb quick, for his might/ Is a match for the gods, he would toss Eros!”’

You rose to the challenge admirably. Worthy of special mention are Juliet Walker, Susan McLean and Katie Mallett. Top dog this week is Mary Holtby, who gets the extra fiver. The other winners, printed below, are rewarded with £20 apiece.

Whenever you see a rhinoceros
Don’t shudder and gasp and recoil;
This curious beast isn’t fierce in the least
But a lovable son of the soil.
You may think that his looks are preposterous,
Repulsively wrinkled his skin,
And you tend to suppose that the horn on his nose
Is a clue to the creature within;

But in fact that remarkable ungulate
Is courteous and clever and kind;
He’s a principled guy who would not hurt a fly
And is keen on the life of the mind.
He’s acquainted with art and philosophy,
Has views on original Sin:
Why not offer a date for a formal debate
And invite fellow-falterers in?
Mary Holtby

The rhino, as many would postulate,
Is a twin-horned delight, an adorable sight
Who, in spite of his might, is demure and polite
With a mouth that invites us to osculate!

Enwrapped in his leathery armour,
He trundles about through downpour and drought
To grub and to grout at whatever might sprout,
He’s an out-and-out champion charmer.

But humans can sometimes unsettle him,
He might appear mild but, just like a child,
He’s easily riled and quickly turns wild
Should anyone needle or nettle him.

With a temper as fiery as phosphorus
He’ll glower and glare and his nostrils will flare
So be wary, beware and be sure to take care
Whenever you see a rhinoceros!
Alan Millard

Whenever you see a rhinoceros
You can’t help but feel woebegone:
It seems such a pity you can’t make a ditty
About it like Flanders and Swann.

The sight of a lone armadillo
Evokes the same envious despair.
You know you will never write lyrics as clever
As Michael’s, or match Donald’s air.

The sloth, the g-nu and the warthog
At the drop of a hat they have captured
In elegant rhymes set to music that chimes
With such concord, you listen enraptured.

Say, who hymned the hippo and made him
Immortal in his muddy pond?
No beast you can name has achieved lasting fame
Until it’s been Flanders&Swanned.
Ray Kelley

Whenever you see a rhinoceros,
You’ll know him because he’s colosseros
With his knobbly toes
And the horn on his nose
(That’s the bit that we call the probosceros).
You should tickle his ears
And offer him beers
To make sure he doesn’t get crosseros,
Then saunter along
With a gay little song
Pretending you don’t give a tosseros,
And still talking gently
Escape to your Bentley
And beat it as quickly as posseros.
Shirley Curran

Whenever you see a rhinoceros,
Which is not every day, I suppose,
You may think the beast looks preposterous,
But you mustn’t make fun of its nose.

An elephant finds trunk jokes comical
And laughs at them with a good grace,
Like a mandrill at japes anatomical
About that red shape on its face.

A platypus won’t cop an attitude
When you’re chaffing it with duckbill cracks.
(Nor do whales wail that jibes about fat are rude,
And hump gags roll off camels’ backs.)

With a rhino, though, humour proboscis-themed
Puts a dangerous nose out of joint.
So beware! If your quips get this critter steamed,
You’ll get no laughs, but will get the point.
Chris O’Carroll

Whenever you see a rhinoceros
Out for a stroll in the Strand
You’ll think to yourself: how preposterous;
Immigration has got out of hand.

Those rhinos will surely scrounge off of us;
Claim flats from the local authority.
They’ll drive down our wages. Quite cross ’r’ us.
The rhinos are taking priority!
Celeste Francis

Whenever you see a rhinoceros
cavorting in the Rhine
and ask him how das Wasser ist,
he’ll answer you, ‘It’s fine’.

Whenever you see a rhinoceros
relaxing in the Seine
and ask him how das Wasser ist,
he’ll answer, ‘Come again?’

Only German rhinos know
the meaning of das Wasser ist.
That’s something you should keep in mind
whenever you see a rhinoceros.
Robert Schechter

No. 2603: O-pun invitation
You are invited to submit a newspaper article on a subject of your choice currently in the news containing as many excruciating puns as possible (150 words). Entries to ‘Competition 2603’ by 2 July or email

Show comments