Lucy Vickery

Competition | 10 April 2010

Lucy Vickery presents the latest competition

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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

    tomorrow dull

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

    snuffing it.

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.

Bill Greenwell

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?

John Whitworth

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-

    elimination —

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-

    tion —

For in the sort of sleep you get when mortal coil

    is shuffled

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

    cause confusion.

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!

George Simmers

Macbeth: I’ve got a little list; Macduff, you’re on

    my list.

I’ve already killed King Duncan (though his sons

    escaped my net)

And Banquo, so those hags’ forebodings I can

    now forget.

What! Fleance did resist? Well, I’ll add him to

    my list

And arrange a little tryst with that revolutionist.

I know when Birnam moved to Dunsinane I got

    a scare,

But no man born of woman is a threat to me —

    so there!

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

    sadly missed),

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 by midday on 21 April.