Lucy Vickery

Belloc-esque cautionary tales for our times

Belloc-esque cautionary tales for our times
‘When Alexander Johnson erred/ Was vile in deed or crass in word…’ Credit: Oli Scarff / Staff
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In Competition No. 3180 you were invited to submit a Belloc-esque cautionary tale featuring a high-profile public figure.

Cautionary Tales for Children, published in 1907 and ‘designed for the admonition of children between the ages of eight and fourteen years’, featured such cruel and hideous comeuppances as being eaten, feet upwards, by a lion and being burnt to a crisp. Yours were generally rather less grisly, but props to Chris Ramsey for his pay-off to the sad story of Dom, who ended up whacked like a mole: ‘The moral is: for all their dash,/ All Spads, like spuds, end up as mash.’

No one drew a parallel between weepy Matt Hancock and Belloc’s incurably lachrymose Lord Lundy, destined to be the next prime minister but three, who fell from favour because ‘A hint at harmless little jobs/ Would shake him with convulsive sobs’, though the Secretary of State for Health does appear in the winning line-up.

Those poems printed below earn their authors £25 each.

O children, heed my words today:

Beware the fate of Donald J!

He learnt when he was but a youth

That lies work better than the truth;

He found his ends were best achieved

By telling lies that all believed.

‘I’m smarter than George Washington!’

Declared mendacious Donald John.

‘If I’d chopped down that cherry-tree,

I would have sworn it wasn’t me!’

He lied until his face turned blue

And he himself believed them too.

He lost the vote, yet lied and lied.

‘I’m still the President!’ he cried.


So, children, tell the truth hereon

Lest you end up like Donald John.

Brian Allgar
Young Matthew Hancock’s Chief Delight

Was giving harmless folk a Fright:

Appearing nightly on TV

He Prophesied Calamity

And Terrified the people till

A lot of them became Quite Ill

And duly featured in the Graphs

Of two men, Wise but Short on Laughs,

One called Vallance, one named Whitty

(Members of the Sage Committee),

Which proved if you Defied the Ban

On Mixing, you would Kill your Nan.

Alas, a Warning so Severe

Instilled such Universal Fear

That Everybody stayed inside

So couldn’t help as Matthew Died.

J.C.H. Mounsey
Rish Sunak had a winning Grin:

Whatever Depths they dunked him in,

He came up with the broadest Smirk.

They pinched him hard. It didn’t work —

They stole his Pencils, Marbles, Chips,

But still he kept his Twinkling Lips.

One day at School, a Prefect quit,

And Rishi, who was Up For It,

Was elevated, and apace.

The Smile grew wider on his Face.

They sent him — it was like a Dream —

To run the Tuck Shop’s income stream.

Within a Week, the Shelves were bare,

Its Tables all in Disrepair.

The Head Boy wailed ‘You Stupid Child!’

But Gracious! how Rish Sunak smiled.

Bill Greenwell
Now heed the tale of Jonathan

Who ran a metaphorathon.

He thought we’d all feel better for

One long extended metaphor

Of yoghurts, goals and trains to catch

Until, one day, he met his match.

When sharing podia with Boris,

Steeped in Pericles and Horace,

They traded figurative speech:

Analogies, a dozen each

Until BJ and JVT

Lost all touch with reality.

Then JVT said VAR

Had ruled BJ had gone too far:

Beware lest, due to words mis-spoke,

The truth itself goes up in smoke.

David Silverman
When Alexander Johnson erred,

Was vile in deed or crass in word,

A Johnson with his middle name

He’d fabricate to take the blame

And so it was this ‘Boris’ who

Slathered the Pater’s chair with glue

Or pinched the buttock of a maid

While guzzling stolen lemonade.

Young Alexander took it hard

That ‘Boris’, now the family card,

Got more attention than himself

And feeling he was on the shelf

Allowed his alter id and ego

To duet as the ‘Boris’ we know,

Prone to bluster quip and quarrel

If never to evince a moral.

Adrian Fry
Of all the boys I’ve ever seen

The greediest was Master Green:

He’d help himself to all the toys

That should have gone to other boys,

Made sure he got the biggest share

And watched it grow beyond compare.

Alas, he always wanted more,

And carelessly he would ignore

Advice to little children who

Would have their cake and eat it too.

And so it was, one fateful day

They came and took his toys away.

Pray, listen to these words of caution,

Do not take the largest portion:

Boys who want to have it all

Get what’s in store: decline and fall.

Sylvia Fairley

No. 3183: adverbial

You are invited to submit a short story entitled ‘My Year of Living [insert adverb of your choice here]. Please email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 20 January. We pay winners by cheque, unless you state on your entry that you would prefer to be paid by bank transfer.