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Competition

Autumn villanelle

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2870 you were invited to submit an autumn villanelle.

Stephen Fry likes villanelles. The form inspired him to write his book The Ode Less Travelled (subtitled Unlocking the poet within). I like them too — and so do you, if the size of the entry is anything to go by. A round of applause for the winners below, who take £30 each.
 

Autumn has come and summer dreams are dead
And though she compensates with golden trees
Beyond her kind deceit death lies ahead.
 
She wears a smile and moves with gentle tread
And yet her tone will change as time decrees;
Autumn has come and summer dreams are dead.
 
Too soon her transient beauty will be shed
And withered blooms will disappoint her bees.
Beyond her kind deceit death lies ahead.
 
Apologies in fruit are brightly spread
But still we hear in every gossip breeze
Autumn has come and summer dreams are dead.
 
Although she dances, beautiful in red,
Doing her best to pacify and please
Beyond her kind deceit death lies ahead.
 
We never welcomed autumn to our bed
But she arrived to titillate and tease.
Autumn has come and summer dreams are dead.
Beyond her kind deceit death lies ahead.
Frank McDonald

 
It’s hard to write an autumn villanelle
On mists and gourds, maturing sun and grain.
Perhaps an ode will serve me just as well.
 
Late flowers and vines and bees in clammy cell
Bring nothing to poor Keats’s fevered brain.
It’s hard to write an autumn villanelle.
 
On lambs loud-bleating there’s a tale to tell
In lines that flow, all free of any pain.
Perhaps an ode would serve me just as well.
 
My heart aches for I cannot weave a spell
With this strange form. I emphasise again:
It’s hard to write an autumn villanelle.
 
A cider press and plumped-up hazel shell
Would make a thing of beauty, it is plain.
Perhaps an ode would serve me just as well.
 
Let all this repetition go to hell;
If I attempt much more I’ll go insane.
It’s hard to write an autumn villanelle
Perhaps. An ode will serve me just as well.
Max Ross

 
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.
He steals the daylight and he cools the sun.
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.
 
Storms are his claim to fame. He blasts and blows
And robs the mariner of all he’s won.
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.
 
He strips the green from ev’ry tree that grows
And paints the garden brown and when he’s done
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.
 
Insolent spoiler, see him thumb his nose
And drown a country wedding — not just one!
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.
 
He fills the skies with seagulls and with crows
And bids the swallows flee, the hedgehogs run.
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.
 
He breathes his chill on fingers as on toes
And pockets all he finds of summer fun.
Trust not this joker in his gaudy clothes.
He kills the lily and he blights the rose.
Ralph Rochester

 
This is the time to learn that men grow old.
We hear a farewell in the swallows’ call
As summer’s warmth gives way to winter’s cold.
 
The fields are bare as all the crops are polled
And only stumps remain of what was tall
This is the time to learn that men grow old.
The trees are covered up in greasy mould
And sprout unsightly tumours filled with gall
As summer’s warmth gives way to winter’s cold.
 
The leaves, so lately buds, grow rich with gold.
Weighed down, they shrivel, petrify and fall.
This is the time to learn that men grow old.
 
The shops remove their decent goods unsold
And Christmas chintz adorns the shopping mall
As summer’s warmth gives way to winter’s cold.
 
And things that never will be done are told
As empty phrases fill the conference hall.
This is the time to learn that men grow old
As summer’s warmth gives way to winter’s cold.
Philip Roe

 
Bright day declines. Long shadows grow
Across etiolated grass.
It is the season of the crow.
 
Tall forests murmur to and fro.
Their yellowing leaves are sick and sparse.
Bright day declines. Long shadows grow
 
Stinkhorns and polypores below
In the abandoned underpass.
It is the season of the crow.
 
The mood is lowering indigo.
Thick fogs descend like clouded glass.
Bright day declines. Long shadows grow.
 
Your steps are faltering and slow,
For fear of falling on your arse.
It is the season of the crow.
 
Our dream of summer’s golden glow
Has dwindled to an age of brass.
Bright day declines. Long shadows grow.
It is the season of the crow.
John Whitworth


 

No 2873: concrete poetry

You are invited to submit a poem in praise or dispraise of a well-known building. Please email entries, wherever possible, of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 5 November.


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