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Tube lines

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2907 you were invited to imagine that poets, living or dead, had been recruited to compose verse discouraging antisocial behaviour on the underground.

This challenge was prompted by the results of Transport for London’s real-life efforts to use poetry to prompt Tube users to mind their manners: the poems in question feature rhyme and scansion that would have made McGonagall blush.

Over to the experts, then. Adrian Fry’s Emily Dickinson — ‘Because I would not mind the gap’ — was an impressive runner-up, as were Charles Clive-Ponsonby-Fane, Mike Morrison and Alanna Blake. The winners, printed below, pocket £15 each.

Come friendly bombs, and fall on those
Who clip their nails or pick their nose
Or drop their knickers on the train
Twixt Wembley Park and Rayners Lane.
Respect the genial, genteel folk
Of Hampstead, Highgate, Gospel Oak;
Spare leafy Essex excess noise:
Preserve the peace of Theydon Bois!
David Silverman/John Betjeman
If you can cease to shout ‘I’m on the train!’
Assaulting ears with trivial conversation —
Transported past the barriers of pain
Your captive audience shrinks at your oration –
Then curb your puerile prating, we implore,
And trash your phone, employ a voice less shrill, you
Will find there’s gold in silence; and, what’s more
Your fellow travellers won’t be forced to kill you.
Sylvia Fairley/Rudyard Kipling
They brought you up, your mum and dad,
To show respect to all you meet,
So do not be a Jack the Lad.
Seats are for arses, not for feet.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Philip Larkin
My heart leaps up when I behold
A maiden young and sweet
Who, well aware that I grow old,
Will offer me her seat,
Such clouds of glory do they trail
Who, being young and fit,
Have pity on the old who ail
And stand that they may sit.
Alan Millard/William Wordsworth
Crow liked the underground.
He liked the descent into the tunnels of Hades,
And the hordes crowding the moving staircase,
Arguing, jostling, getting in the way
Tumbling over one another and causing accidents.
Crow laughed.
Stand on the right, walk on the left, said Crow.
Nicholas Hodgson/Ted Hughes
Some of the more intensely spiced foods you enjoy eating
Are likely to occasion discomfort as their aromas waft toward adjacent seating.
These delicacies, albeit pleasing to your palate, may nevertheless afflict your fellow passengers with olfactory
Sensations which they regard as the very opposite of satisfactory.
We are therefore respectfully requesting
That you refrain from ingesting
All such comestibles (which exist in such multiplicity
That we cannot be taxed with singling out the cuisine associated with any particular ethnicity).
Chris O.Carroll/Ogden Nash
Stop all the talk. Less volume on your phone.
You mustn’t natter as if you were here alone.
Muffle your voice. We do not care to hear
Loud details of your love life or career.
Our journeys underground — North, South, East, West —
Are pleasanter when you give it a rest.
Your noise, your rudeness, troubles us too long.
You think our patience lasts for ever? You arewrong.
Hugo Jayson/W.H. Auden
I knew a stupid passenger
To whom it did not once occur
That dropping food inside a train
Is proof of an abandoned brain.
Some witnesses, with civic pride,
Pushed him upon the line. He fried.
Young cretin, cease, or you shall know
The hell where louts who litter go.
Bill Greenwell/Siegfried Sassoon
Blessed is the man who walketh in righteousness,
For he shall pass fully down the carriage
And obstruct not his fellow-men,
Nor shall he usurp the seats of the infirm.
And at the ending of the journey
Lift up thy gates, O Lord,
And do thou ensure that we forget not our belongings,
But keep us ever mindful of the gap.
Brian Murdoch/in the style of a psalm
My father’s boots, heavy with mud’s crust
As he trudges from the fields, past the yard’s turnip-snedder,
And in his hand his great spade, held exactly
At the point of balance, lightly.
The spade’s lodged in the shed, boots removed by the door,
Before it’s the big chair, and putting his feet up,
Which he’d never do in the front parlour.
He’d know the right thing on a train, also.
George Simmers/Seamus Heaney
They’re changing trains at Crystal Palace,
Christopher Robin and Pooh and Alice.
‘Now, don’t let your fingers get trapped in the doors —
Too late! They’ve closed, and there go Pooh’s paws!’
Says Alice.
Derek Robinson/A.A. Milne


No. 2910: it’s a dog’s life

You are invited to submit a poem by a pet who’s cheesed off with its owner (up to 16 lines). Please email entries to by 5 August.

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