Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: A Kentish Lad

Spectator competition winners: A Kentish Lad
[Photo: © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images]
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In Competition No. 3259, you were invited to submit a poem entitled ‘A(n) [insert county of your choice] Lad’.

There has been quite a fanfare this year to mark the centenary of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, but rather less attention has been paid to Housman’s Last Poems, also published 100 years ago. Hence this Housman-themed challenge, which attracted a smart and thoughtful entry with some nice Housmanian echoes. George Simmers’s offering also owes a debt to Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen. He and his fellow winners, printed below, take £25 apiece.

You reckon you knew misery 

In Wenlock and on Bredon,

You say the world weren’t good to thee? 

Well, it gave thee food to feed on. 

 

And you’re sad because lads marched to wars, 

With boots upon their feet? 

Th’art lucky! We longed for clogs because 

Of t’broken glass in’t street. 

 

Yet every year we heard the lark 

Sing through the summer’s cold, 

And through those autumns damp and dark 

When pies grew thick with mould. 

 

We were grim yet happy neath our wan 

And gloomy Yorkshire skies, 

And how we loved to feast upon 

Those blue remembered pies. 

George Simmers/A Yorkshire Lad
On the stifling, raw M20, 

Choked with outbound traffic streams, 

Lads in lorries curse aplenty 

At the spoiling of their dreams. 

 

Eastward, crowded Margate offers 

Sandy beaches and fine art. 

All the lucre in its coffers 

Cannot soothe a baited heart. 

 

Laughter of the young men swimming 

Echoes joys of years long past. 

Those for whom the light is dimming 

Feel no comfort at the last. 

 

While the nation’s fertile garden, 

Fructifies in humid heat, 

Veins and arteries that harden 

Cue life’s terminal retreat. 

Basil Ransome-Davies/A Kentish Lad
Where little interrupts the sky, 

In soil profoundly dark and rich, 

Fine fields of wheat and barley lie 

All parcelled out by stream and ditch. 

Here too the stately Great Ouse flows, 

Where I first handled rod and reel, 

And some sly river-spirit chose 

To let me land a full-grown eel: 

Tipped out into the old square sink 

 

And spurting blood with severed head, 

It lay awash in ghastly pink, 

Yet writhed defiantly undead. 

Long out of Norfolk now, that stays – 

My turn as scullery Macbeth: 

But I’ve a store of happier days 

And sighting Fens still catch my breath. 

W.J. Webster/A Norfolk Lad
Step by step he plods, with blister’d feet 

And aching limbs; rough nights and nought to eat, 

Traversing eighty tortured miles to reach 

His cottage home, absconding from High Beach 

 

To hear the throttle sing her song, and see 

The cricket and the blossom-haunting bee, 

To view the meadows filled with ripening wheat, 

While new-born lambs in fresh green pastures bleat. 

 

Yet Clare, the self-consumer of his woes, 

Will see these fragile months of freedom close, 

Confinement in a new asylum calls, 

He’ll live and die within its sombre walls 

 

Yet may he never know our world will sweep 

Away his rustic dream – for he can keep 

His spirit of the free, and never lose 

His final image of The Rural Muse. 

Sylvia Fairley/A Northamptonshire Lad
Much travelled in the realms of golf, 

Much towelled in the gyms 

Of Harpenden, you’re off to quaff 

Your Aperol and Pimm’s. 

With quinoa, hummus, pitta bread, 

Prosecco from the fridge, 

You Tesla off to Berkhamsted 

For Beaujolais and bridge. 

You’re making slams in six no-trumps 

In Brookmans Park and Bushey, 

Then dinner parties with old chums – 

Life couldn’t get more cushy. 

 

But where d’you go to, alone, my pet 

When no one’s there to doubt you? 

My lovely, you’re so vain, I bet 

You think this song’s about you. 

David Silverman/A Hertfordshire Lad
Although today there is no trace 

Of Rabbie’s honest, sonsie face 

When we recite his Selkirk Grace 

He comes to dine; 

And we can feel his warm embrace, 

In Auld Lang Syne. 

 

He walked through Ayrshire hill and glen 

And gave us songs of mice and men. 

A humble daisy charmed his pen 

And red, red rose. 

His verses call him back again 

From his repose. 

Max Ross/An Ayrshire Lad

No. 3262: Initial embarrassment

You are invited to submit a poem on behalf of Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss in which they set out their stall, but in which the first letters of each line inadvertently spell out an inappropriate word or phrase. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 10 August.