In Competition No. 2405 you were invited to write a poem in praise or dispraise of the month of August. ‘The English winter — ending in July,/ To recommence in August,’ grumbled Byron when he was particularly fed up with the island. On the other hand Day Lewis wrote a delightful poem, ‘A Windy Day in August’:
‘August for the people and their favourite islands’ — today I’m leaving for Andros, which I hope will not prove a people’s favourite. The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, barring Alanna Blake, who has £30.“
Dust leaps up, apples thud down,The river’s caught between a smile and a frown...
Though August is with us we wither in weatherMore near to November than holiday timesAnd when we would simmer and swelter this summerIs chilling our bones as in Arctic climes.
For water is everywhere, raining and runningIn gutters that gargle as drains overflow,In mists that are draping the hilltops and drippingIce-cold through our clothes as we cower below.
The westerly wind comes in volleys, the valleysAre foaming and frothing with rivers in spate;On high moors the heather waves hither and thitherAnd sodden sheep shrink with their wet wool’s weight.
The peat bogs are muddy and soaking and suckingOur feet into pools on the rough way-marked path.We plod through dank bracken, our spirits quite broken,And heaven contracts to a long hot bath.Alanna Blake
Augustus Caesar is to blameFor blighting August with his name,A month which only fools could claimHas merit to defend it.
Horrendous holidays to bear,Annoying school kids everywhere Mad insects flitting through the air,Oh, autumn! Come and end it!
‘Silly-season’ news reports,Adolescents quaffing quarts,Oldies in outdated shorts!Oh, who can comprehend it?
The sudden rain, the blocked-up drain,The plumber somewhere out in Spain,August is a total painWith nothing to commend it!Alan Millard
August. Long cherishedAs the month for flaunting ourInequalities,Nature’s asymmetricalDistributions of beauty.Its sun, a clichédQuarry, tastelessly pursuedBy blowzy rabblesOn foreign and domesticShores through surfeit’s pallid rolls.
Sweat and inertiaBeside blue pools, with no careFor drained aquifers,Just resentment as others Monopolise recliners.
Not august, August.David Blaber
August. The nation’s phones are off the hook.Now it is time to find a shady nookAnd contemplate that well-worn patch of skyWhere homeward-heading flights drop gently by.Here I can sit the summer watches throughEngaged in crossword, book or Su Doku.I hear the engines as they come and come(Ah! The brave music of a distant hum!)And think of those two hundred souls inside,Blistered from too much sun and bleary-eyed,Clutching their precious bags of duty-freeAfter a wrench from bed at half past three,And then perhaps a four– or five–hour waitBefore the blessèd summons to their gate.It isn’t schadenfreude at all, I swear:Just joy at pains I do not have to bear.Noel Petty
Then I loved the round, unbroken eight,It’s neat infinity of line;No exercise books ever bore that date —They had the spindly fathead nine.For August was the month untouched by school,Four weeks of days to call our own:A glimpse of freedom like a Hockney pool,The sweetest times I’d ever known.Something of that freedom lingers still,A sense of rare, free-floating time:The long view from the summit of the hill Before the shadowed downward climb.But August now calls Autumn into mind,The Fall it will not long suspend;Its closing shades are not the Wordsworth kind,And there’s no new term at its end.W.J. Webster
August for the people, Auden wrote.I like to thinkHe meant by it the antidoteTo going to your shrink,A kind of people’s palace out of doorsWhere shining sunWould soothe your running psychic soresAnd substitute good fun.
But that was then, and bloody now dismaysWith warmed-up lies,The silly season’s dull dog-days,Clichés that paralyse.August for the fully purchased hack,The glib and the inane,And no poet fit to bring backThe Audenesque August again.G.M. Davis
No. 2408: Francophobia
‘Oh, plague of plagues! Wherever I turn, French tricks,/ French schemes, French morals, and French politics!’ You are invited to continue for a maximum of 16 lines more, either in the modern or the 18th-century mode. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2408’ by 1 September.