In Competition No. 2865 you were invited to compose a poet’s elegy for him or herself. This challenge took you down a path trod by poor Chidiock Tichborne, who wrote his own elegy, ‘Tichborne’s Elegy’, in 1586, on the night before his execution, aged 28, for his part in a conspiracy against Elizabeth I.
You were all good this week. Commiserations to Peter Smalley, Barbara Smoker, Max Ross, Sylvia Fairley and Chris Gleed, who narrowly missed the cut.
The winners earn £25 each. Brian Allgar trousers £30.
I’faith, I cannot say which is the worse:
To fade into oblivion, forgot,
Or for my shade to live on through my verse
And mock me that it is, when I am not.
When I have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Sans eyes, sans other bits, sans everything,
Shall people say ‘God rest him from his toil’,
Or ‘Dead, you say? Ne’er mind, the play’s the thing’ ?
I have gone here and there to slake my lust
And slake my thirst, yet lust and thirst shall end;
Like chimney-sweepers, I must come to dust,
Though words live on. So think on this, my friend:
‘Much hath he left that is remembered still,
Yet, being mortal, could not leave a Will’.
My time was always running out,
My faith in doom always devout.
No scholarly attainments can
Revise the fate prescribed for man.
I never looked on blooming spring
Without chill thoughts of wintering,
Nor ever drew a living breath
Unmindful of impending death.
I knew what would in time betide
Each muscular young lad I eyed,
And knew that I must lie someday
Beside them all beneath the clay.
You shall be dust like me ere long,
For pessimism’s never wrong.
It came at last, my time to go.
I knew it would. I told you so.
Chris O’Carroll/A.E. Housman
Soon shall I meet Lord Death, who scorns all locks,
With his twin scythes, Cirrhosis and the Pox!
As I have lived, if I should die so well,
Then I will take the easy road to Hell,
And shall the burning pitchforks not disdain,
Since I shall be with all my friends again,
Who relish devilry and fiery pricks.
And then I’ll teach Satan a few new tricks!
But if what Heaven takes all sinners in —
E’en a devoted rake and libertine?
I, Rochester, poet and English earl
Shall lurch triumphant through the gates of pearl
And go and stand before the throne of thrones,
Then shall I say to God in mighty tones:
So many charges men could lay on you!
And then I’ll go and find some nuns to screw.
Brian Murdoch/John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
There came the day, as come it must,
When Patience Strong returned to dust,
A poet whose uplifting rhymes
Consoled the downcast in hard times.
Whenever dark clouds hid the sun
And life held very little fun
Her verses were warm rays of hope
That cheered up those inclined to mope.
As through this world our way we wend
We cannot know the final end,
Yet goodly folk may be assured
That faith will bring its own reward,
If only in the memory
Of loving friends and family.
Grieve not for me. I am twice blest,
Immortal, though now laid to rest.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Patience Strong
Now that America’s laureate of light verse, Ogden Nash is
Reduced to ashes
Here’s an all-American, non-Tennysonian In Memoriam
From beyond the crematorium.
Folks say that everything will be peaceful
Once you are deceaseful,
That you will never be as chagrined as
You were in this vale of tears when your remains are cinders,
So though loved ones may weep and rend their garments
And celebrations will be held by hostile varmints,
Adopt the upbeat attitude of Samuel Beckett
And just say ‘feck it’.
Actually I plan to be interred in a cemetery
Not burned in a crematory,
But let me give you a quote from the Bard that is highly appertaining:
The truest poetry is the most feigning.
G.M. Davis/Ogden Nash
Life’s end, the death-drift I must bear,
Seeking sorrow’s springs, féared to be gay.
My bowel, fóul-fésted, drains my day,
Soft-shifted shades dárkening my despair.
Wórds búrned, smoke-spiralling in air
As incense, scented, heaven-sent; I pray
To ease the tells of torment, dark, not day,
My sins, self-purged, desirèd to declare.
Yet nature’s rhythm entices me to write
New-sprung, new born, new-crafted words to bend,
To plót and piece the world in dappled light.
Now failure flays me, fever-fracked I wend
Thróugh dárk and light, despair, delight,
Murmuring I’m so happy, at the end.
Sylvia Fairley/Gerard Manley Hopkins
No 2868: magic touch
You are invited to choose something mundane — notes from a parish council meeting or the weather forecast, for example — and filter it through the lens of magic realism. Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 1 October.