Lucy Vickery

First and last

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In Competition No. 3046 you were invited to supply a poem beginning with the last line of any well-known poem and ending with its first line, the new poem being on a different subject all together.

This was a wildly popular comp, which elicited a witty and wide-ranging entry that was both pleasurable and painful to judge. The winners below, chosen only after much humming and hawing, earn £30 each.

I am the captain of my soul:

Scant comfort when I’m six feet under

Inside a crude and loamy hole.

Has someone slipped up here, I wonder?

I thought that I would hob and nob

With angels, all their wings aquiver,

But I lie, stripped of pulse and throb,

Inside some plywood, doomed to shiver.

My soul, it seems, won’t rise or fall,

But lodge here with my last remains,

Observing thus the free-for-all

As maggots chew my senseless brains.

I am condemned. I have no shape.

I rule my soul, eternally —

But that won’t let me once escape

Out of the night that covers me.

Bill Greenwell

In England’s green and pleasant land

When Saxon monarchs held the throne,

Poor Ethelred could hardly stand

Through corns, a bunion, nails ingrown

And, worst, a giant plantar wart.

This feckless king let no one touch

His thus tormented soles. His court,

Their consternation roused by such

A danger to his rule, called in

A blacksmith, who at once set to

With clipper, rasp and fossick-pin.

The king, though bound and gagged, soon knew

Relief from pain and, much impressed

By this display of skill sublime

Ennobled him who served him best

And did those feet in ancient time.

Hugh King

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Is that the sort of claim a sound mind makes?

We’re both aware our shared mortality

Is not inclined to cut us any breaks.

We add the zest, the whoop-dee-doo, but life

Itself must be some other giver’s gift.

How long one husband dallies with one wife

Both souls can’t know, so splurging feels like thrift.

I’ll keep on trying to say what goes unsaid.

Your loveliness outruns all metaphor.

The frantic, mellow magic of your bed

Is more than any one trope could explore.

Pray your love’s truth help my words find their way.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Chris O’Carroll

The frolic architecture of the snow

Captures imagination. Children run

Into their garden where white phantoms blow

Flakes for their artistry. A sleepy sun

Withholds its warmth, but they ignore the chill,

Creating silent Adams. Through the day

They build and mould their men with native skill

Till darkness comes and banishes their play.

Then late at bedroom windows wondering eyes

Observe the artwork in the moonlight’s spell,

And watch the snowmen shed their white disguise

As mystic life enters each icy shell.

‘Let there be life!’ the constellations cry,

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky.

Max Ross

Silent, upon a peak in Darien,

There lie the corpses of a broken dream;

New Caledonia won’t rise again,

Half Scotland’s savings vanished in that scheme.

Unfortunate. But was it really wise

To trust a paradise no one had seen,

To venture all upon a wild surmise?

It’s not ill-luck: it’s where I, Greed, have been.

What next? I blew a bubble full of gain:

A trade monopoly in the South Sea —

Except there was no trade because of Spain —

And thousands were reduced to penury.

So now, who to entice to get rich quick?

‘I’ve been, sir, where there’s precious wealth untold’,

(Louisiana’s swamps should do the trick;)

‘Much have I travelled in the realms of gold…’

Nicholas Hodgson

‘Begin afresh, afresh, afresh,’

I am instructed by my muse

Who often does not let me choose

But holds me in a metric mesh.

So many times she’s made me stop

Despite a fairly decent start;

She doesn’t have the kindest heart.

How can one give one’s muse the chop?

I’m old, I try to write on death;

She steers me off that fatal line.

I turn from those dark words of mine,

Collect my thoughts and catch my breath.

Then I’ll accept another brief,

I will apostrophise the Spring:

The busy birds are on the wing,

The trees are coming into leaf.

Alanna Blake

The Lady of Shalott

despised the folk of Camelot

who’d sent the unctuous Lancelot

to try to wheedle and beguile her

into letting them defile her

views of barley and of rye

by building wind-farms close nearby

to power the lights of Camelot.

She left her web, she left her loom,

she fired her shotgun from her room.

And, though she missed Sir Lancelot,

two years in jail was what she got.

During which, we hear it told,

they redeveloped all her wold.

Now turbines sixty metres high

on either side the river lie.

Martin Parker

No 3049: a fine bromance

You are invited to submit a poem about a bromance. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 16 May.