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Competition Diversions

Competition: Shorts

19 May 2012

1:00 PM

19 May 2012

1:00 PM

In Competition No. 2747 you were invited to encapsulate a well-known poem in four lines.

These digests perform a valuable service to the time-starved reader of today, and How to be Well-versed in Poetry, edited by E.O. Parrott, contains some fine examples. Who needs to plough through Chesterton’s ‘Lepanto’ when we have John Stanley Sweetman’s four-line gem: ‘Don John/ Fought on./ Gave Turks/ Works’?

Your contributions were just as good and, to judge by the flood of entries, the assignment was an addictive one. Commendations go to Robert Schechter, Michael Grosvenor Myer, Marion Shore and Tabitha Syrett., while the winners earn £7 for each entry printed.

My mood is bleak, my girlfriend’s dead,
The bird sits on Athena’s head
And croaks the same word o’er and o’er.
Why did I let him through the door?
Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Raven’/Chris O’Carroll

The wedding-guest was quite distressed,
Perplexed and at a loss;
He’d heard a tale — death under sail —
But who was Albert Ross?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’/Brian Allgar

Nobody touches
One’s duchess.
The artist was given a lethal injection.
Want to see the rest of my collection?
Robert Browning, ‘My Last Duchess’

Sneaking through the smog and crud,
I’m bothered by my collar-stud.
Baldly, I won’t spend my nights
Expecting sex with water-sprites.
T.S. Eliot, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’

See you later, alligator,
My undearest pater:
Men cause a suicidal urge:
Because of you, I’m on the verge.
Sylvia Plath, ‘Daddy’/Bill Greenwell


Owlboy Strigis pulls Cat Felis —
In a nutshell the big deal is:
Cadge a fiver, blag a barge,
Sail off, wed, dance, have it large.
Lear, ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’/Mike Morrison

A sun-bronzed Surrey tennis girl
sets a soldier’s heart a-whirl.
They park the car, do nothing naughty
and get engaged around twelve-forty.
John Betjeman, ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’

Assorted wordy pilgrims on a trip
share many a long and weirdly ill-spelt quip,
some of which had been much better kept
less rude — or ‘Canterbury Smut’ yclept.
Chaucer, ‘The Canterbury Tales’/Martin Parker
In principle I’d like to court
For aeons, but since time is short,
And flesh and lust can’t last, let’s mate
Before they reach their use-by date.
Andrew Marvell, ‘To His Coy Mistress’
Penelope Mackie

You may gamble on pie in the sky,
You may dream of some heavenly portal,
But the best things in life have to die,
So relish whatever is mortal.
Wallace Stevens, ‘Sunday Morning’

The sound of the Channel tonight
Makes me fear the impending abyss.
What happened to sweetness and light?
Oh go on then, give us a kiss.
Matthew Arnold, ‘Dover Beach’
Basil Ransome-Davies

These addled musings point to nothing much:
A railway Halt, a cough, a hiss, some trees,
Dry haycocks, heat-haze, endless fields and such,
Small wonder Beeching banished lines like these!
Edward Thomas, ‘Adlestrop’/Alan Millard

I was cruising the street when I heard someone tweet
That amour is an antidepressant,
But the clocks’ doomy chimes all retorted that
Time’s
A destroyer and love evanescent.
W.H. Auden, ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’

If I snuff it there will be a bit of Blighty
In some patch of foreign soil (surprise, surprise)
While I’ll be swapping yarns with the Almighty
In an archetypal English paradise.
Rupert Brooke, ‘The Soldier’/G.M. Davis

If you lead, yet serve
But make no fuss,
And hold your nerve,
You’ll be One of Us.
Kipling, ‘If’/Noel Petty

Get good at losing early on,
And you’ll not miss things once they’re gone.
I treat this as an art I’ve mastered —
I’m even over you, you bastard.
Elizabeth Bishop, ‘One Art’/Brendan Beary

God did a good job with the spotty,
in fact He enjoyed it a lot. He
speckled and rippled and dabbled and stippled
as if He were totally potty.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘Pied Beauty’/Janet Kenny

O Fatty, in a pair of gloves,
unloved and in a field.
Who knows what you were doing there?
It’s never been revealed.
Frances Cornford, ‘To a Lady Seen From a Train’
Jayne Osborn

Since I am almost blind, I’m hardly able
to see to write. So what’s to be my fate?
Perhaps I’ll try my hand at waiting table.
They also serve who only stand and wait.
John Milton, ‘When I Consider How my Light is Spent’/Mary E. Moore

No. 2750 vice verse
You are invited to provide a poem in praise of one of the seven deadly sins (16 lines max.). Please email entries, where possible, to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 6 June. 


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