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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’:

Dust leaps up, apples thud down,

The river’s caught between a smile and a frown...

‘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.

Though August is with us we wither in weather

More near to November than holiday times
And when we would simmer and swelter this summer
Is chilling our bones as in Arctic climes.

For water is everywhere, raining and running

In gutters that gargle as drains overflow,
In mists that are draping the hilltops and dripping
Ice-cold through our clothes as we cower below.

The westerly wind comes in volleys, the valleys

Are foaming and frothing with rivers in spate;
On high moors the heather waves hither and thither
And sodden sheep shrink with their wet wool’s weight.

The peat bogs are muddy and soaking and sucking

Our 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 blame

For blighting August with his name,
A month which only fools could claim
Has 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Oldies in outdated shorts!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 pain
With nothing to commend it!
Alan Millard

August. Long cherished

As the month for flaunting our
Inequalities,
Nature’s asymmetrical
Distributions of beauty.
Its sun, a clichéd
Quarry, tastelessly pursued
By blowzy rabbles
On foreign and domestic
Shores through surfeit’s pallid rolls.

Sweat and inertia

Beside blue pools, with no care
For 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 nook
And contemplate that well-worn patch of sky
Where homeward-heading flights drop gently by.
Here I can sit the summer watches through
Engaged 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-free
After a wrench from bed at half past three,
And then perhaps a four– or five–hour wait
Before 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 think
He meant by it the antidote
To going to your shrink,
A kind of people’s palace out of doors
Where shining sun
Would soothe your running psychic sores
And substitute good fun.

But that was then, and bloody now dismays

With 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 back
The 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.