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Lucy Vickery

Sonnets on the universe

Sonnets on the universe
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In Competition No. 3206, you were invited to supply a sonnet on the universe.

The late Frank Kermode reckoned that the sonnet form is just too easy — try a double sestina, if you’re after a challenge, he said — and comps such as this one certainly draw the crowds. A bumper crop of deftly wrought entries showed great wit and imagination, though some stumbled at that tricky final couplet. I was very much taken with several excellent twists on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: Joe Houlihan, John O’Byrne, Tim Raikes and Tony Harris take a bow. Others who shone brightly were Roy Ballard, Martin Parker, Nick MacKinnon, Frank Upton, Nick Syrett, Dorothy Pope, Matt Quinn and Richard Spencer.

The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £20 each.

The cosmos never featured in her life,

She’d read no scientific articles

Had Sitwell’s ‘Mrs Hague, the gardener’s wife’,

On space or subatomic particles;

The weekly round of chores was all her lot,

Days washing, baking, cooking and the rest,

Though, on the Sabbath, off to church she’d trot

With brooch and bible, dressed in Sunday best;

Fenced in was Mrs Hague’s small universe,

While stars wheeled overhead she’d spend her hours

On tasks she found sufficiently diverse,

Preparing fruits for jam or tending flowers.

The Universe for some might be profound

But Mrs Hague’s was rooted to the ground.

Alan Millard

It’s everything there is, a whole bang shoot,

Caboodle, kit, your barrel, lock and stock,

The works, the boiling, right around the clock,

Your lot, but with the kitchen sink to boot,

Full English and an aggregate, a brute

So huge, size never matters; it’s en bloc,

It’s what it is, there is no propter hoc:

It is as real and marvelled at, as moot.

And that’s its business — what the cosmos is,

Or was, is never your concern. Its place

Is no place. It’s the bees’ knees, and the biz,

Around us all, refusing interface,

Defying Hawking, Sagan, every whizz

Who wonders what’s beyond the bounds of space.

Bill Greenwell

When the Almighty formed the Universe

It was, to say the least, a Big Idea,

Which somewhat underwhelmed His wife, Ikea,

Who grudgingly demurred ‘Hm, could be worse’

But privately felt more inclined to curse

Her Husband’s hare-brained scheme; began to fear

His sanity. ‘Best not to interfere,’

She told herself. ‘Keep calm, stay risk-averse.’

The Project went ahead, complete with cock-ups.

Ikea had a flash of inspiration:

Intent on obviating further hiccups,

Announced, without a moment’s hesitation,

‘I want a Heaven too — don’t dare forget!’

The Almighty sighed, ‘It isn’t finished yet.’

Mike Morrison

I think I am in love with Isaac Newton,

his star shines brighter than the Milky Way;

though Blake depicted him without his suit on,

with or without, I’d have him any day.

We’d test the Big Bang theory out in space

and, drawn by universal gravitation,

’twixt galaxies and planets we’d embrace,

experiment with cosmic copulation.

Through interplanetary space, and rubble

suspended in a belt of asteroids,

we’d gravitate beyond the reach of Hubble

past superclusters, filaments and voids…

Alas, a solar-flame consumes my heart

while Ike and I remain light years apart.

Sylvia Fairley

We send our songs to galaxies beyond

The reach of rocket power. Our lonely race

Craves for companions in the depths of space

And hopes some clever beings will respond,

Inviting us to join a cosmic bond.

We’ve wandered on the moon’s forbidden face

And searched the rocks of Mars to seek some trace

Of lifelines when another age had dawned.

And all the while we hurtle ceaselessly

With Perseids and Megellanic mist

Into the universe’s silent soul.

A primal bang in our dark history

Or jest from some almighty humorist

Has put us on a course we can’t control.

Frank McDonald

So much, and all the words that knowledge finds

for galaxies, the whole cosmology,

the seen and unseen, beyond human minds —

uncounted stars, the genealogy

of superclusters, filaments and voids,

cosmic inflation, nebulae, the force

dark energy exerts, the laws employed

to grapple with expansion and its course.

Each has a role, however small — like dust,

decoupled photons wheeling through the dark,

from subatomic particles to trust

even a virus has some vital spark.

I stare into the edgeless dark of night,

a human dot, no bigger than a mite.

D.A. Prince

Let’s get this straight: there’s just one universe.

It’s in the name — it means ‘that’s all of it’.

No parallel ones — that would make it worse,

And when you chuck in time, it’s time to quit.

It seems the universe is infinite,

Its edges, therefore, won’t be seen from here.

No one will ever go faster than light,

And ‘dark matter’ just means ‘we’ve no idea’.

‘E = mc squared’, we’re often told

Though no one ever says what it might mean.

‘The Big Bang’s 13 billion years old.’

How do they know? Why not 9? Or 15?

Best to ignore this universal stuff!

We’ve not much time, and we have world enough.

Brian Murdoch

No. 3209: take seven

You were invited to provide Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of a Tory MP. Please email entries of up 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 21 July.