In Competition No. 2899 you were invited to write a poem commemorating the birth of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge.
The impetus for this comp was Carol Ann Duffy’s failure to deliver the goods. This made some people very cross, but as the official website of the British Monarchy makes clear, modern laureates are under no obligation on this front: ‘It is up to the individual poet to decide whether or not to produce poetry for national occasions or royal events such as weddings and funerals.’ Some may even argue that it was a wise decision on Duffy’s part; after all, previous laureates have produced royal-inspired verses that might have been better left unwritten.
In any case, you stepped into the breach with gusto. I was moved and impressed by the poems submitted by a group of seven- to eight-year-olds, which put some of the adult entrants to shame. Commendations also go to Coco Hills and Marc Woodward. Sylvia Fairley’s entry, a neat riff on Duffy’s ‘22 Reasons for the Bedroom Tax’, was a winner. W.J. Webster’s sonnet earns him the extra fiver. The rest take £25.
A baby safely born is always joy:
The labour overtaken by relief,
The skirling cry, no matter girl or boy,
A presence still not quite beyond belief.
This is the stuff of life that we all share,
Determining not what but that we are:
But sense of it’s then dulled with daily wear,
Perception’s doors being left at best ajar.
So when the press of every day makes space
To greet in celebration this new birth,
We are acknowledging what’s taken place
As regal symbol of our human worth.
It is to that idea that we respond:
The royal event proclaims a common bond.
So, fourth in line — the Cambridge line indeed,
tracing across the landscape something new
and unusurpable, and history’s need
to hold the female train secure and true.
Grant her a cot, a plot, a face, a space
for hiding, holding, huddling, making sound
those infant needs yet met with royal grace
to set her infant feet on common ground.
Let her, unwombed, feel time fall like the sun
of highest summer on her childhood smiles
when what she thinks stays locked and not undone —
an undreamed future, all adorned meanwhile
with innocence. The future holds enough,
and more, in dead-weight — paparazzi, press,
the roughest riding rough-shod o’er the rough;
grant her these few days’ peace, this shelteredness.
I think of Apple Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web:
A wholesome name, more middle-class than deb.
These days the royals must be just like us
We want them ordinary, with little fuss.
No jewelled dresses like the Virgin Queen.
That type of spending would just look obscene.
No ermine-covered prams, vicuna shawls
Or diamond rattles to pacify her bawls.
No welcome with a special laureate’s sonnet,
Just pictured in the tabloids in a bonnet.
The lullabies of sudden shutters:
The hummed hymns of the paparazzi —
Listen how each camera sputters,
Whirrs for you, you little Gatsby:
How the crowd of nosey-pokers
Cranes its necks to see your stillness —
Tries to bring you into focus.
One day you’ll think this an illness —
But rest a while, before the phrases
Cynics bring you fill your thinking:
Here you breathe, all time in stasis,
Gently shifting, sensing, blinking —
Royally at ease, ignore us,
All too happy when you’re keening;
Never mind the constant chorus
Filling you with perfect meaning.
The duckling keeps everyone waiting,
The hyenas are poised for a scoop,
The sheep in a herd celebrating,
The toads gather round in a group.
The stoats are providing the ermine,
The lambkins are sharing their wool,
The rats keep away, as they’re vermin,
The cows seem to think it’s all bull.
The horses are looking unstable,
The gannets are boosting their sales,
The swans are prepared for the table,
The corgis are chasing their tails.
The poet’s ‘on holiday’, yet it’s assumed
The barrel of sherry will still be consumed.
Charlotte Elizabeth Diana,
Her parents’ and her nation’s pride,
Sweet as the pleasing dulciana,
Is innocence personified.
A baby is a lovesome thing,
And monarchy a scheme divine.
But royals grow up pondering
The question of the next in line.
Fourth is the closest Charlotte gets
To regal head of state, unless,
As in Kind Hearts and Coronets,
Some ‘accidents’ ensure success.
Well, shame on me, distasteful poet,
Suggesting such a horrid plot,
But if you go for it, you know it
Must be hush hush, sweet Charlotte.
No. 2902: Howzat!
You are invited to supply a poem incorporating a dozen cricketing terms. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 10 June.