Jaspistos

De haut en bas

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In Competition No. 2399 you were asked for a reply in blank verse by the maid addressed in Tennyson’s poem, ‘“Come down, O maid from yonder mountain height:/What pleasure lives in height?” the shepherd sang...’

You can only catch a glimpse of me this week, since my head is going to disappear behind the curtain once I have announced that there are seven winning entries to this comp, all in a photo-finish bunch. The camera adjudges Basil Ransome-Davies top winner. He gets £30 and the others have £20 each. That’s all, folks.

‘What pleasure lives in height?’ Why, sir, you seem

To picture mountain tops as barren, cold
And void of the amenities enjoyed
By dwellers in the valley. ’Tis not so.
This summit is no hostile, frozen zone,
No rocky wilderness. Some years ago,
The site became a Heritage attraction,
With all its natural loveliness enhanced
By tasteful redevelopment, such as
A car park, public toilets, a café,
A children’s playground and a shop that sells
A range of charming gifts and souvenirs.
Its catering, facilities, design
Have won awards. And yet the myth persists
Of bleak discomfort at high altitudes.
Tend to your sheep, and question me no more.
Basil Ransome-Davies

Then called the maiden to her shepherd-swain

(Tho’ ‘hollered’ might more near her voice define):
‘’Ere, Lycidas, you’re gettin’ on me nerves,
How many times I got to tell you, no!
I’m stayin’ on me mountain-top, all right?
And your pathetic whingeing won’t change that.
You’re all the same, you randy shepherd boys,
Just pissy poetry and oaten reeds,
Gettin’ young girls in trouble in the hay,
Then leggin’ it. You’re irresponsible,
The lot of you. Don’t give me “rivulets”
And “murmuring of innumerable bees”.
If you was half a man you’d be up here,
Wooin’ me proper — that’s what I deserve;
Instead you’re down there, tootlin’ on yer flute
Like some sad loser. Lycidas, get a life.’
Mike Morrison

‘What pleasure lives in height?’ the maid replied.

‘Alas, you’ll never know, poor, lowly swain,
Whose height, from tip to toe, is half of mine,
Whose top my bustled bottom barely meets!
My pleasure lies in looking down on you
And seeing all that you will never see:
The bald spot in the hayfield that’s your hair
Where flecks of dandruff fall like flakes of snow,
Those sad, beseeching, upturned eyes that gaze
On beauty such as mine beyond their reach.
Look lower, lowly shepherd! Set your sights
On maidens more your size! Go seek and find
Some “Mary” searching for a manikin
To pet and pamper as her “little lamb”!
“Come down!” you cry to me. You must be mad.
Grow up, and chase the maid that’s made for you!’
Alan Millard

What pleasure lives in height? I might refer

Your question to that mighty Laureate
Wordsworth, who saw the world from Striding Edge
And knew the spirit underlying all.
No doubt you feel on grounds of health and safety
I would do better to embrace your life,
Stumble, like Marvell, upon grass, not rock,
See Nature as improved by human hands —
And why not yours? I heard that word ‘embrace’
As I evaded you upon the way.
No, shepherd, here I am and here remain,
Finding it pleasure, in my middle teens,
To stay a maid upon a mountain height,
Reminding you to study, as you should,
That excellent Children and Young Persons Act.
Paul Griffin

Sweet is the prospect from this lofty peak,

Sweeter the life-enhancing oxygen,
Sweetest the feeling of accomplishment
In gaining thus the summit of my hopes.
The pleasures that you question lie in these,
And also in believing my descent
May be attempted in more leisured style.
But were I to regain the fertile vales,
A serious allergy to sheep would blight
The pastoral idyll that your song implies.
Oh, incidentally, I’m not a maid,
Though optic glass of whatsoever strength
Would not have shown you, gleaming on my hand,
The golden circlet of connubial troth.
So, gratefully, but never yours ...P.S.
I’ll always have a high regard for you.
Geoffrey Bullard

Come up here, shepherd, if you want to see me.

What pleasure lies in yonder village pub?
Televised football, crisps and gassy beer.
You’re overweight, I know, but you can make it:
This ‘mountain height’ of which you speak is only
About six hundred feet above the car park,
But here at least there’s air that’s fit to breathe,
Skylarks and curlews, running streams and heather.
You’re only in the pub in any case
Because tonight the landlord’s putting on
A reading by some ‘noted rustic poets’,
Yourself among them. And no doubt you hope
Your verse will have me tearing off my clothes
And crying, ‘Take me, master, I am yours.’
Look, shepherd, if I’m after mindless bleating,
I don’t need poets. Bring your sheep up here.
Michael Swan

‘Some little inconvenience I admit,’

The maid replied, ‘in that I have to strain
To hear your questions; and to answer them
I’m forced to shout, which harms a lady’s voice.
However, since you ask, I’ll do my best.
It’s common knowledge that the mountain air
Is healthier than the plain’s: it stimulates
The brain, whereas the atmosphere down there
Is stagnant, stifling, and somniferous.
The scenery is more inspiring here —
Rugged, romantic — while the fields below
In boring sequence scarcely undulate.
But why expatiate further? It’s quite clear
You’re far too idle to essay the climb
And find out for yourself what pleasure might
Await the enterprising mountaineer.’
Mary Holtby

No. 2402: Show me your leader

The last editorial article in a quality newspaper is traditionally facetious, learned and topical. You are invited to supply an imaginary example of the genre. Maximum 150 words. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2402 by 21 July.