In Competition 2641 you were invited to submit an adaptation by W.S. Gilbert of a scene or a soliloquy from Shakespeare.
It is quite a challenge to match Gilbert’s wit and metrical mastery, but that did not put you off — this was an extremely popular competition. The entry was more than twice the usual size and of a stellar standard, so honourable mentions all round. G.M. Davis, Frank Osen and Penelope Mackie came especially close to making the final cut. Long Gilbertian lines mean that space is short, so I’ll step aside for the winners, printed below, who get £30. The bonus fiver is Bill Greenwell’s.
If she had died next Friday I’d have had the time
to cherish her
But monarchs grow laconic when a consort is a
I could have sung a requiem, rhetorical, imperial.
Instead it’s immaterial to sound a note funereal.
I’m bound to find tomorrow and tomorrow and
For thinking of the future is unutterably sorrowful —
The ticking of the minutes in particular’s despica-
It only makes one sensible of when the bucket’s
Life is like a lighted wick whenever one is puffing it
And I am just another fool who’ll very soon be
We’re understudies, clubs of subs, who have one
shot at standing in;
We clutch the cards from Equity we’re certain to
be handing in
Your story may seem glorious, by lightning and
by thunder led:
It turns into a drama that’s been drafted by a
You hope you are contenders, and that you may
be a trialist:
But never mind the nincompoops, you’ll wind up
as a nihilist.
It goes round in my head: am I better off dead, is
the game for a Dane worth the candle?
Suppose I should chuck it and just kick the bucket,
would that be the act of a vandal?
Is it better to go with the devils you know, though
they give you one hell of a buffet,
And continue to try with a ‘never say die’, or to
tell them succinctly to stuff it?
For, as everyone knows, Death is merely a doze
and the dozer is calm as a Saint, so
The sleep is quite seamless and painless and
dreamless, except that it possibly ain’t so.
Yes, the storm and the strife of an average life
may be something you don’t really much like,
With the going and getting and grunting and
sweating and bearing of fardels and suchlike,
But whatever comes after the tears and the
laughter (though laughter was never my pigeon)
You just didn’t oughter submit to self-slaughter
forbidden by Christian religion.
No, for God’s sake don’t do it, you’re certain to
rue it. How could it be prudent or clever
To burn on a bonfire, incessantly on fire for ever
and ever and ever?
To be or not to be, that is the poser that I ponder.
Should I simply sit and suffer? Is it worth my
while to squander
All my energy in combating a tide of tribulation?
To end — but ending makes me think of self-
And that’s the thing that bothers me today!
Though death may be devoutly wished for as a
The thought of it can still excite a certain agita-
For in the sort of sleep you get when mortal coil
There may perhaps be dreams that will not leave
your soul unruffled —
And that’s the thing that bothers me today!
Yes, though this rotten life of ours has evils in
The thought of what might follow it can only
It’s true — excessive thinking makes you wimpier,
not steelier —
But that’s enough of that, because here comes
the fair Ophelia —
I think I’ll go and bother her today!
Macbeth: I’ve got a little list; Macduff, you’re on
I’ve already killed King Duncan (though his sons
escaped my net)
And Banquo, so those hags’ forebodings I can
What! Fleance did resist? Well, I’ll add him to
And arrange a little tryst with that revolutionist.
I know when Birnam moved to Dunsinane I got
But no man born of woman is a threat to me —
I live a charmed existence like a Universalist
(I’ll put them on my list; I know they’d not be
What’s that you say? Untimely ripped? Oh,
bother, what a bore!
It means I’ve got to fight you and I never did like
(I left the clunking fist to Her Indoors — she’s
But as you’re on my list and I’m not a pacifist,
Let mortal combat here begin — a fight unto the
I’ll kill both you and Malcolm or my name is not
Chorus: Oh, what an egotist! Macbeth is now
Virginia Price Evans
No. 2644: Talking pictures
If your television could speak, what would it say about you? You are invited to submit the views of an inanimate object, in verse, on its owner/s (16 lines maximum). Please email entries, where possible, to email@example.com
by midday on 21 April.