In Competition No. 3065 you were invited to supply a happy ending for a well-known play, poem or novel.
Nahum Tate (the worst poet laureate ‘if he had not succeeded Shadwell’, according to Robert Southey) gave King Lear a cheery ending: Lear regains his throne, Cordelia marries Edgar, and Edgar joyfully declares that ‘truth and virtue shall at last succeed’. Charles Lamb hated it, but Samuel Johnson was a fan and so were the punters, it seems: Tate’s 1681 The History of King Lear is thought to have replaced Shakespeare’s version on the English stage, in whole or in part, for some 150 years. In a generally mediocre entry, Ian Baird, Paul Carpenter and Adrian Fry stood out. But the cash prizes go to the Pollyannas printed below, who take £25 each.
Man hands this mystery on to man,
Which deepens like a coastal shelf:
Where all that’s wrong with you began,
How not to pass it on yourself.
They gave you life and showed you love;
The rest is down to you, old son.
If you need someone to reprove,
Who else is there but number one?
So play some jazz and celebrate
The verse to be inside your head;
Don’t waste thought trying to calculate
The price you pay for not being dead.
And if not kids the words you leave
Can hold a candle to the night;
Your writing lets the world believe
That gloom is too a kind of light.
W.J. Webster/‘This Be The Verse’
All ‘O’ Series locomotives resemble one another, but each OV Series is unique in its own way. Awoken from her maudlin reverie by the roar of the incoming overnight 23.55 from St Petersburg, Anna felt a sudden premonition that her fortunes were about to change for ever. She ran to the front of the platform.
As the train came into view, Anna could barely breathe, transported with an ecstasy she had not felt for years. ‘An OV Series 841!’ she gasped. ‘Maximum speed 85 kilometres per hour; traction power 16.1; steam pressure 11.5 kilograms per square metre!’ She noted the engine number. Looking up, she beheld an excited group armed with binoculars, notebooks and thermos flasks. They were cheering, delighted to find another of their own. ‘Join the club, tovaritchka,’ called one, offering her a drink. ‘Vodka?’ asked Anna. ‘Borscht,’ came the reply. ‘Nasdarovje!’ Anna had found her tribe at last.
David Silverman/Anna Karenina
Prince Rome! Now hold, and stay’st thy hand;
Let fall to earth that cursèd fatal vial:
Behold! Fair Juliet yet breathes and look!
I bear a scroll from fair Sir Jeremie Kyle.
That bold knight doth plead ye both attend
And fly thee thither as the homing dove,
Thereto before the court of common men
Partake of this segment: ‘Forbidden Love’.
With great amaze and words all hot with ire,
Thine sires will thunder as the storm at sea,
But soon enough sweet calm will come to pass
And bonded all in love wilt thou all be.
A star-bless’d path then beckons thee ahead:
Here’s summons from Celebretie Big Broth’r.
Joseph Houlihan/Romeo and Juliet
I grow young… I grow young…
I shall have a stud pressed through my tongue,
And girlfriends who wear ALEXACHUNG.
Shall I have a jazzy quiff? Shall I sport a pompadour?
I shall wear a heathered tee-shirt and slouch along the shore,
Eating rancheros, listening to House of Pharaohs, hard core.
I shall have a mermaid tatt on my left shoulder.
I’m hundo P that mermaids will be coming my way,
Besides which, I am going to drop the J.
Alfie is trending, so my bruhs all say.
I have seen them in the barrel, shooting the curl,
Hanging on the lip, watching the water swirl,
Sea-girls with eyes of jade, with teeth of pearl.
They are hungry for change, they are in my squad.
Wing-collars are not retro, they are weirdo, odd:
I am on heat, I will meet my God.
Bill Greenwell/‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’
MACDUFF: That way the noise is. Tyrant, show thy face!
DOCTOR: Pray silence, sir, I have a patient here, Bereaved, distressed, depressed and in a state.
MACDUFF: I seek Macbeth.
DOCTOR: Who is my patient, sir,
And I would have you put away that sword
Whose nasty edge betokens crude revenge.
The king is ill, hallucinating trees
From Dunsinane do come to work him harm.
But he’s sedated now, and therapy
And counselling we hope may pull him through.
MACDUFF: I come to punish him. Blood will have blood.
MALCOLM: No, Mac, desist, for ’tis unseemly quite
To hound those suff’ring from poor mental health.
MACDUFF: I see your point. Therefore I’ll change my tune.
Come, let’s away, to eat some scones at Scone.
And as she reached the distant shore
A group of damsels glad she saw
With news that she had won the draw
And riches never seen before Bestow’d by Camelot.
‘A fortune I have gained,’ she said,
‘’Tis now I’ll lose my maidenhead
Betimes cavorting on a bed
With bold Sir Lancelot.’
Sylvia Fairley/‘The Lady of Shalott’
No. 3068: back to front sonnet
The next challenge was set 20 or so years ago. It comes courtesy of Jaspistos, and of Rupert Brooke, whose ‘Sonnet Reversed’ has a Shakespearean rhyme scheme but begins with the rhyming couplet. It starts on a note of romantic passion and ends in prosaic banality. You are invited to submit your own sonnet reversed. Please email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by 26 September.