Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition: poets’ selfies (plus: liven up something mundane with a dose of magic realism)

The latest challenge, to compose a poet’s elegy for him or herself, took you down a path trod by poor Chidiock Tichborne. He wrote his own elegy, the poignant ‘Tichborne’s Elegy’, in 1586, on the night before his execution, aged 28, for his part in a conspiracy against Elizabeth I. Nicholas Stone’s entry, in which he channels the inventor of the clerihew, E.C. Bentley, is rather more upbeat:

Edmund Clerihew Bentley Slept fairly contently; But at his life’s close He found total repose.

And Mae Scanlan came up with neat twists on Christina Rossetti’s ‘When I am dead, my dearest’ and Rupert Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’. In fact, you were all good this week. Commiserations go to Peter Smalley, Barbara Smoker, Max Ross, Sylvia Fairley and Chris Gleed, who narrowly missed the cut. The winners earn £25 each. Brian Allgar trousers £30.

Brian Allgar/Shakespeare I’faith, I cannot say which is the worse: To fade into oblivion, forgot, Or for my shade to live on through my verse And mock me that it is, when I am not. When I have shuffled off this mortal coil, Sans eyes, sans other bits, sans everything, Shall people say ‘God rest him from his toil’, Or ‘Dead, you say? Ne’er mind, the play’s        the thing’ ? I have gone here and there to slake my lust And slake my thirst, yet lust and thirst shall        end; Like chimney-sweepers, I must come to dust, Though words live on. So think on this, my        friend:

‘Much hath he left that is remembered still, Yet, being mortal, could not leave a Will’.

Chris O’Carroll/A.E. Housman My time was always running out, My faith in doom always devout. No scholarly attainments can Revise the fate prescribed for man.

I never looked on blooming spring Without chill thoughts of wintering, Nor ever drew a living breath Unmindful of impending death.

I knew what would in time betide Each muscular young lad I eyed, And knew that I must lie someday Beside them all beneath the clay.

You shall be dust like me ere long, For pessimism’s never wrong.

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