In Competition No. 2755 you were invited to submit an ‘Ode to rain’.
No doubt you saw this one coming, what with monsoon June and July’s 50 shades of grey skies. In any case, the lively and entertaining postbag the challenge elicited was certainly a welcome antidote to the ongoing misery of being semi-housebound or repeatedly soaked to the skin.
Gerard Benson, Katie Mallett, Mae Scanlon, Roger Theobald and Basil Ransome-Davies were unlucky to miss out on a place in the winning line-up. Those that did make the cut are printed below and rewarded with £25 apiece. Mary Holtby pockets the bonus fiver.
A one-off award this week for the most aptly named competitor goes to Mick Poole.
Come, proper Muses, bring your tears
To this high-water mark of years:
Melpomene and Clio be
The mates of mourning Niobe —
(And Noah, have a word with God,
Who swore there’d be no second flood,
While every street observer marks
A multiplicity of arks)
Rain, rain, O rain!
Alas, what boots it to complain?
No lake can compass thee, no pit, no drain;
Ten thousand brooms sweep over thee in vain.
A sodden nation scarcely can recall
Those Junes of jollity, a sun that scorches…
We would forgive thee, if thou wert to fall
Fatally on the flame of touring torches.
To end a drought, by God’s good grace
Our prayers are answered with this gift.
The natural order back in place,
Our spirits lift.
We live and prosper by this trade,
The rise of vapour, fall of rain:
Two elements combined and made
An endless chain.
The clouds are reservoirs to tap
For what will be the earth’s life-blood
Transmuted into juice and sap
Or leaf and bud.
Without fresh draughts of rain, the lakes
Would shrivel under parching sun
Along with every spring that makes
The rivers run.
The sun — harsh, parching tyrant of the sky —
Has been our daily master for too long.
Conquer him, rain. Come, moisten what was dry.
Drown his gold glare in your cool silver song.
Let heaven open, let the clouds release
Their bounty gathered up from land and sea,
Let every current feel its flow increase,
Make inundation our new destiny.
Send eddies swirling round our wellied feet,
Let rowers ply the roads where cars held sway,
Make every roof a drumhead, every street
An urgent stream, a surging waterway.
Bestow on us a forty-day downpour,
Then — bugger rainbows — give us forty more!
I fear my ode will not be flattering;
I grimly take my pencil and begin,
While raindrops start that dreadful spattering
That tells me summer is icumen in.
It’s raining in the streets and on the beaches,
It’s raining on my roof, a monstrous din.
The rain will last for weeks, the forecast preaches;
A soggy summer is icumen in.
The lightning’s flashing and the thunder’s
I’m stuck indoors, and soaking up the gin.
The weather’s great for ducks, but I’m not
Torrential summer is icumen in.
They tell me it’s essential for the garden,
They say it’s beneficial for the skin,
But endless bloody rain! I beg your pardon —
An English summer is icumen in.
Ah, rain! the standpipe years are sluiced away
along with hosepipe bans and crunchy lawn
and we recalibrate our fears as day
brings in another grey and gurgling dawn.
The thirsty gardens gulp and slurp, then stop.
Enough’s enough. The gutters’ overflow
cascades a proud Niagara, every drop
increasing all the squelch and mud below.
The fate of every fete is in its power,
and Rain stopped play’s the radio’s refrain.
It strips the petals from each opening flower.
The weather forecasts give the same, again.
The reservoirs are filling, nearly drowned,
and rivers are in credit, springs revive.
The ghosts of drought are well and truly drowned
and water gods are very much alive.
To you, Jupiter Pluvius, all hail,
Also all showers, torrents, drizzle, sleet,
That we may for our green isle once more claim
The wettest summer since records began,
Nay, since the start of time itself! Let floods
Wash o’er our streets, sink carbon-gushing cars,
Save energy by downing powerlines,
And teach the restless people to sit still,
By letting landslides stop their monstrous trains!
Come, friendly clouds, and pour down upon
On Toxteth, Tyneside, and on Tottenham,
Damp out the fires set by rebellious youth,
Teach them to stay at home with sandbags full —
Even Canute did not defy the skies!
Then shall our Thames-borne Naiads once again
Sing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ in the rain.
NO. 2758: ASTROLOGICAL
You are invited to submit a horoscope for cancer or leo written by a well-known literary figure past or present (150 words maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 1 August.