Lucy Vickery

Shakespearean sonnet

Text settings

In Competition No. 3077 you were invited to submit a sonnet with the name of a Shakespearean character hidden in each line

This one pulled in a bumper haul of entries, from old hands and newcomers alike. While some competitors described the challenge as ‘fun’, others greeted it with a squeal of horror. C. Paul Evans, for example: ‘The mother of all horrors, what a comp,/ A theme to turn my ashy locks to dust!…’

The shoehorning in of names occasionally led to some stilted lines, but there were bursts of remarkable fluency too. In an entry full of witty touches and clever flourishes, commendations go to David Silverman, Chris O’Carroll, Jan Snook and Julia Griffin; a prize of £20 belongs to each of those printed below.

In Machu Picchu and at other sites

We globetrotted, our future bright and clear,

Our love synonymous with life’s delights,

Devoid of anger, jealousy and fear.

No hurt could scar us, we were young and free.

Our youthful lust, white-hot, spurred our desire

Till smothered one foul night in Italy

That proved her a dissembler, an ace liar.

How artful were her wiles, her double-deal.

Though I thought her an angel on this earth,

Her vows of love were sham, letting me feel

A dupe cascading tears of bitter mirth.

So now our paths diverge, spider and fly;

In Rome our shameless fake romance will die.

Basil Ransome-Davies

We marched along the road, past an old mill,

Through a deserted hamlet, to the Line.

Now bleary-eyed, I looked at my pal Bill:

‘He can’t take any more.’ ‘No, he’ll be fine’,

Said Jack, ‘he only needs’ (sly wink) ‘a wench.

I tried that brothel: Lord, that mademoiselle=

Made me forget the lice-infested trench’,

(He belched) ‘A bit of heaven in this hell.

Don’t look like that; I’m only human, mate’.

‘I’d just as soon be snug alone in bed’,

Said Bill. We marched in silence to our fate

At no great speed, half-sleepy and half-dead.

Then, as dawn quickly overtook the dark,

Cascades of music woke us, from a lark.

Nicholas Hodgson

My plots are crafted, clever and uncanny;

Witchcraft intrudes; demon and sprite appear.

Violent fate comes speedily to many

When men plot hell on earth and devils cheer.

I set my scenes in Rome or other towns;

Daughters are gannets, greedy for a prize.

The lucky prosper only as poor clowns

And foolish thanes heed mad ambition’s lies.

When challenges are made then tragedy

Will follow, making learned men despair.

No one’s inviolate; in adversity

Bad and good fellows taste foul fortune’s fare.

Sometimes for sport I alter man and miss

And they in borrowed garments court and kiss.

Max Ross

Perhaps a typo in some dog-eared book;

scant onionskin that saves a cherished hand;

the fragile glamour in the smell and look

of wildflowers; earnest orators’ unplanned

assertions; strange locution in a rushed,

ambivalent, inexpert turn of phrase

voiced in a midnight Ouija question, hushed,

reheard verbatim on ensuing days;

anonymous graffiti: there’s no squelching

such subtle art, and when we chance to hear

some boor who’s cheered us hitherto by belching

break out as an impromptu balladeer,

and find no supple beauty in his song

that feeling may be genuinely wrong.

Max Gutmann

Poor Portia, such glum arias she sings,

Sad as a blue tit ushering forth a song

As doleful as the bell’s knell sorrow rings

Whilst I with ample fervour for her long,

Yet must in dark mould yearn to win her heart

When neither gods nor folk my suffering see

Or grant me kind rapport ere I depart

From one who might love llamas more than me!

I, keen as mustard, see delight in one

With whom I’d prosper — offer her my hand,

Rich ardour on her lavish and, when done,

Elope to Rome or any far off land,

And there, with subtle wisdom, quell despair

And fondly stroke the shy locks of her hair.

Alan Millard

Please, no more news. True, fake, or pseudo/sham,

let’s take a short break from mock-heroic scenes,

from shallow arguments and knife-edge bets,

who’s on the verges (and the TV screens)=

of bringing down the country. Pistol-whipped

or smothered by reports or drowned in ink,

let MPs hectoring tones, each shabby script,

be snugly silenced, leaving space to think

how, honest or not, we have too much of news,

and how its weasel ways just violate

the place of those with the sincerest views,

scoring graffiti on the ship of state.

The bottom line: we all deserve some cheer.

Enough of news. I hope I’ve made this clear.

D.A. Prince

If this be ham, let beef be on my plate,

yet both beat rice, methinks, to dine upon.

You offer port? I Answer, thank you mate.

Ha! Leave the bottle. Soon it will be gone.

A fine rosé will satisfy my nose.

This pepper’s hot! Hello, my spicy friend!

I don’t like ox for Dinner, heaven knows.

Is a bell a sign this meal has reached its end?

I feel a chill. Escort me to my door.

I’ll ask the ouija questions of the dead.

Relaxing, I’ll shed garments to the floor

and clear the fog of drinking from my head,

but since I’m rather shy, lock tight the latch.

O liver! How I fear you’ve met your match!

Robert Schechter

No. 3080: the ex factor

You are invited to supply an elegy on a piece of obsolete technology. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 14 December. The earlier-than-usual deadline is because of the Christmas production schedule.