In Competition No. 2779 you were invited to submit Maud’s reply to Tennyson.
It was Joyce Grenfell’s magnificently ball-breaking riposte to the invitation to ‘Come into the garden, Maud’ that inspired the challenge, and in general your responses referenced this section of the poem. You were on equally feisty form, having little truck with the narrator’s lurking in the bushes and talking to flowers. Honourable mentions go to unlucky losers Crispian Cartwright, Graham King, Douglas G. Brown, Frank Kershaw and Roger Theobald. The winners earn £25; W.J. Webster takes £30.
Alfred, dear, you are very sweet
To wait at the gate all night,
But I have danced quite off my feet,
And dawn offers little delight.
With the sky only changing from sable to grey
And dew sopping wet on the grass,
In response to your call, I fear I must say
Regretfully, Alfred, I pass.
You still can converse with the flowers of your choice,
In the way you are wonted to do:
I am sure they rejoice at the sound of your voice
With the same rapt attention as you.
I shall wave from the casement before I retire
To find a soft place for my head,
And hope my withdrawal at least may inspire
A collection of verses instead.
On the last of our joint horticultural trips
I contracted, I’m sorry to tell,
Both black spot and mildew plus rose-mite and
And you laddered my stockings as well.
So it’s all your own fault that I’ll not be your guest
And that Nature’s once bounteous charm
I can now only view with reluctance, at best,
And you with a sense of alarm.
For my mildew smells rank and my rose-mite now
And I finally see what is true —
That my garden is full of some unwelcome things,
The least welcome of which being you.
So your now-garden-phobic systemic-sprayed
Says that though you may temptingly coo
That the sweet ‘woodbine’s spices are wafted
She wishes that you were there too.
Oh Tennyson, you rhyme away
While I am blah and sleepy.
Your motives are — what shall I say? —
Ulterior and creepy.
You hymn the beauties of the morn,
But know what really rankles?
You mean you want me on the lawn,
My knickers round my ankles.
You have this pseudo-rustic taste
For outdoor hochmagandy.
Though I’m not starchy or straitlaced,
It fails to make me randy.
Al fresco likely means a nest
Of fire ants, so instead
Of spouting give your tongue a rest
And come to bloody bed.
Go out through that gate, old lord;
Don’t stand at the fence and moan;
Cold dew lies deep on the soggy sward,
You’ll soon be chilled to the bone.
This summery dawn’s a poetical fraud,
A fantasy all of your own.
You talked to a rose? I can only suppose
You’ve finally gone doolally.
A whispering lily is totally silly,
So what if I choose to dally?
A young lord-lover who babbles and sighs
Is a practical object of lust,
But that splendid tear the passionflower cries
Won’t water a man of dust.
‘Come into the garden, Maud’ —
Are you out of your minuscule mind?
‘The black bat has flown’, ‘Spices wafted abroad’
Such drivel were best left unsigned.
Those lines may have scored with an unlettered
But I’m not a girl of the kind
To dally with poets in gardens — dear Lord!
Do you think I am stupid or blind?
I know what you’re after, you’re all just the same;
You poets are lechers and ninnies.
Do I look like a girl who’d become easy game,
Or who hasn’t the faintest what sin is?
A lady to lead to your garden of shame
Like one of those poppets of Prinny’s?
So ‘No’ is the answer, you’ve picked the wrong
Unless you’ve a couple of guineas.
How dare you, Sir, refer to her,
My mother, Mrs Knight,
As ‘black bat’ — Eek! What frightful cheek!
And now you want a light
To smoke your Woodbine by the gate —
No wonder you’re alone;
Tobacco breath I really hate,
So fester on your own.
My sister Rose lives virtuously,
As everybody knows,
And yet, it seems, you’re telling me
You’ve just been blown by Rose.
Well, take your Woodbine, burning still,
And shove it, poet mine,
(Beneath your ‘sky of daffodil’),
Where sunlight doesn’t shine.
No. 2782: supersize me
You are invited to write a poem in praise of fatness (16 lines maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to email@example.com by midday on 23 January.