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Second hand

18 August 2012

6:00 AM

18 August 2012

6:00 AM

In Competition No. 2759 you were invited to submit a well-known poem rewritten by another well-known poet. You were outstandingly good this week and there are lots of unlucky losers. Honourable mentions to Graham King, Janet Kenny, Jerome Betts, Barbara Smoker and Gerard Benson and a hearty pat on the back all round. Those printed below earn £25 each; Noel Petty takes the extra fiver.

The church tower casts an ever-lengthening shade
And evening cloaks the dismal rural scene.
Beneath these stones the hamlet’s dead are laid.
How devilish dull their living must have been!
No claret, cards or courtesans repaid
Their tedious agricultural routine.
I fancy, though, if I’d been humble clay
I’d still have found some fun along the way.

A would-be Virgil may be buried here
Whose rural verse ne’er saw the printed page;
Perhaps a village Socrates lies near
Who played his days out as a rustic sage;
And ’neath these solemn yews a well-tuned ear
Might hear a Homer for our fallen age.
He might have been a Wordsworth, though,
instead —
Now there’s a horrid thought to take to bed.
Noel Petty/Byron does Thomas Gray

Out on the tide a verdant vessel goes,
Owl on the prow and Pussy at the helm;
Hunger and Want forbear to overwhelm
A craft where Hybla’s sweets and folded wealth
Then, lo! this amorous Owl
Soft plucks the sounding string:
‘Fair Pussy, lovely past compare’
Is all his theme, and she the graceful Fowl
Admires in turn and loves to hear him sing.

Mark the year and mark the day
When into Bong Tree Land they find their way
And find Sir Pigwig there,
Who gladly yields for coin his nasal ring,
Wherewith next day their solemn troth they plight.
A rich repast they share,
Then dance, entwined, by Phoebe’s kindly light.
Mary Holtby/Thomas Gray does Edward Lear

Though fondly foolish parents strive to raise
Their cherish’d offspring in auspicious ways
Such sanguine efforts breed, as if accurs’d,
A doom’d posterity with wits dispers’d,
Hearts wrung by anguish, volatile in mind,
To rage and melancholia inclin’d.
In truth that elder generation’s fate
Had been alike, estopp’d from growing straight
By their begetters, beings uninspir’d,
As dull in thought as anciently attir’d,
Now gravely pietistic, now with howls
Intent to savage one another’s bowels.
With what sure aim does suffering descend;
In what despair do fair beginnings end.
Be wise: abbreviate thy mortal term
And, childless, speed thy progress to the worm.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Alexander Pope does
Philip Larkin

It was three-thirty in afternoon in the time of the
Steam rising up in surprise, and the summer heat
All whispering and shimmer, it was blessing and
But the station empty as Tuesday chapel
With the fast train casting its shadowsong
Under cloudwhite and singing as willowy choristers
Wild as herb
With the ricks rising up under sun-blazoned day,

And the counties grew round, earnest in burning
In cotswold quiet.
There could I feel myself held in burlesque
Of burnished sky
Blackbird throating as the soloist
Echoed in hymnals and the psalms of lostbirds
All of them smoke-eyed, dewy, a great congregation.
Bill Greenwell/Dylan Thomas does Edward Thomas

A Tiger came by night — ablaze —
It had the shape of Fear —
I — cowered — at the awful Might
No mortal Thing could bear.

Whose ‘fiat’ loosed it — on the Earth —
Whose furnace fired its eyes?
On whose anvil lay the iron
That now its Soul supplies?

Is this where mortal Dread is forged —
The jaws of Darkness cast?
Where Horror’s wrought — beyond the Mind —
And Nothing’s left — to last?

Or is the Terror holy Flame —
To burn the false — and sham?
Am I to bow — before the Beast —
Then kneel — beside the Lamb?
W.J. Webster/Emily Dickinson does Blake

To put it bluntly, Daddy, you are an individual
whom I cordially dislike.
I would go so far as to compare you to a dark,
sinister figure from Hell or the Third Reich.
My words of bitterness and resentment I am not
inclined to mince.
They buried you when I was just ten years old, and
I have been a psychological basket case ever
Being your daughter is like being delicate white
feet entombed in coffin-like black shoes
(Or, even worse, like being married to Ted Hughes).
I do not scruple to liken myself to a Holocaust
victim even though I am not Jewish.
That is how much our perverse family dynamics have knocked my sense of appropriateness
I’m through with this pointless palaver.
For years I’ve been making bids to join you as a
Chris O’Carroll/Ogden Nash does Sylvia Plath

No. 2762: Sexed up

This summer Pan Macmillan is publishing Jane Eyre Laid Bare, an erotic reimagining of the Charlotte Brontë classic. You are invited to submit an extract from your own racy retelling of a classic work of literature (150 words maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 29 August.

See also

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