James Young

Competition | 2 August 2008

James Young presents the latest competition

In Competition No 2555 you were invited to write a poem, short story or news report containing the line ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant from there’.

The line, which I altered slightly to make versification easier, was uttered by General John Sedgwick, a Union general who was shot dead in the American civil war battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, in 1864. Actually, they were his penultimate words (which, according to an eyewitness, he uttered more than once); but he would not have uttered them at all had he known that the enemy had recently acquired much more sophisticated weaponry, thus improving the strike rate of their sharpshooters. Anyway, the e word prompted some suitably surreal entries; commendations go to Martin Parker, Katie Mallett and George Simmers. The winners, printed below, get £30 each while the bonus fiver goes to Alan Millard.

Oh what a vile villain in the Vale of Elah stood,
A Philistine revered and feared throughout the neighbourhood,
A warrior of gargantuan size, indeed, more great than good
Whose awesome height was quite beyond compare.
One day a lad unclad, a shrimp, stood up to him and said,
‘You’d best not mess with me, my man, I might look underfed
But when it comes to fighting I can strike a giant dead,
So challenge me in battle if you dare!’
The armoured warrior’s weapons gleamed, raised ready now for war,
The lad, he had a leather sling and clearly nothing more,
While all around stood baying for a feast of blood and gore,
With limbs and entrails flying through the air.
The villain faced his feeble foe and started trumpeting:
‘Come on, then, choose some pebbles, lad, and shove them in your sling,
Then whirl and hurl them, let them fly and give the stones a fling!
They couldn’t hit an elephant from there.’
Alan Millard

I keeps below the parapet
(It’s even worse up top)
’Cos the sniper in the other trench
Will always take a pop,
An’ if ’e gets a bead on you,
’E’ll get you, and that’s that!
’E’ll take aim from five ’undred yards
An’ hit a bloomin’ gnat!
It ain’t that safe behind the lines —
There’s targets there as well,
They can hit a cat two miles away
By usin’ a well-aimed shell.

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