Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition: a final ‘if’ for Kipling’s ‘If’ (plus: compose an autumn villanelle)

The call to add a final stanza to a well-known poem attracted an enormous entry. Nicholas Stone imagined how Coleridge might have continued had it not been for the intrusion of the Person of Porlock. Tracy Davidson’s coda to ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ painted a picture of interspecies conjugal bliss-turned-sour. And Penn Harvey added a final installment to Wallace Stevens’s chilly modernist masterpiece ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream’. There were strong performances all round this week, and it was difficult to whittle down the entry. Bill Greenwell, Katie Mallett, Alanna Blake, Mike Morrison and Brian Murdoch were pipped to the post, but only just, by the prize-winners below, who are rewarded with £15 each. Chris O’Carroll takes the bonus fiver.

Chris O’Carroll/‘The King’s Breakfast’ The Queen had A word with The King’s Cardiologist. ‘I fear my husband’s over fond Of dairy foods’, she said. ‘Butter can be Dangerous’, The doctor warned Her Majesty. ‘If Royal arteries get clogged, The King could wake up dead.’

John Whitworth/‘If’ If you can celebrate the state of ifness In hortatory verses by the yard, Your upper lip emphatic in the stiffness Most proper to a very British bard, If you can master every sticky wicket And triumph after falling on your arse, Then you will find that you are just the ticket To be a hero of the middle class.

D.A. Prince/‘If’ But if, despite all this, you come a cropper —        Fall face down in the mud and can’t get up; If being macho’s scary or improper,        If stiffened upper lips are not your cup; Then hug a tree, or paint your nails; whatever.        You’ll find some newer way of getting by. Lift high your head: we’re all in this together —        Remember, it’s OK for men to cry.

David Silverman/‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ The urn breaks! as that drowsy numbness dulls My sense, and Truth and Beauty hit the floor, As one more draught of purple vintage lulls Me ever closer Lethe-wards once more.

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