In Competition No. 3082 you were invited to write a poem taking as your first line ‘Happy the man, and happy he alone’, which begins the much-loved eighth stanza of poet–translator Dryden’s rendition of Horace’s Ode 29 from Book III.
At a time of year when we traditionally take stock and have a futile stab at self-reinvention, you came up with prescriptions that were witty, smart and wide-ranging. The best are printed below and earn their deserving authors £20 each.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
Who dwells securely in his comfort zone,
Disdaining the temptations of success
While relishing the fruits of idleness.
Light-minded indolence preserves the soul
From slithering up ambition’s greasy pole
While kicking frantically at those beneath,
Who curse and fulminate through broken teeth.
Though workaholics and achievers boast
Of crushing rivals or who earned the most,
Where would their amour-propre be without
The telling contrast of the layabout?
Why be the aspirant who strives and strains,
And grows a peptic ulcer for his pains,
And at the end of day undoes his collar
Sighing, ‘another day, another dolour’.
Happy the man, and happy he alone
Whose fingers haven’t touched a mobile phone;
Who hasn’t tweeted tweets or faced a book
Nor ever used a microwave to cook.
Happy indeed the human who can cope
Without a daily dose of TV soap,
And happiest he who’s made it his decision
Never to know the curse of television.
But where lives such a man? What paradise
Protects his thoughts from every modern vice?
Does he in island solitude pursue
The simple things that Horace used to do?
And far from superstores and busy roads,
Contents himself in reading Latin odes?
Happy the man and happy he alone
To whom the giants of the past have shown
Their wealth of wisdom and poetic art:
The world of classics, that essential chart
Which guides successors on the upward way
To bardic heights where still their works hold sway.
From Homer, Horace, Dante he now learns,
And treading in their footsteps partly earns
The vestige of a better power to claim
A budding right to hold a poet’s name
Than self-taught spouters of this modern stuff
Who never seem to hear us cry ‘Enough.