Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: famous poems in reverse

The art of losing isn’t hard to master. Credit: Photo by FPG/Getty Images

In Competition No. 3309, you were invited to compose a poem starting with the last line of any well-known poem and ending with its first, the new poem being on a different subject from the original.

Max Ross’s sonnet, reflecting on the demands of the task in hand, earns a commendation:

The task for which I now am all too weak
Consumes a wealth of hours as I implore
Hundreds of poets to give me what I seek
And sometimes I decide to search no more… 

As does Bob Trewin’s entry, which uses Dylan Thomas’s line – ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’ – to highlight the challenging consequences, for some, of net zero. The winners earn £25 each.

Though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster,
Defeat can be rewarding all the same.
Venality creates temptations vaster
Than fairly playing up to play the game.  

The Black Sox scandal of 1919
Exposed finagling on the baseball field.
Eight losing players were pronounced unclean;
The fix succeeded, but somebody squealed.

The opportunities to cheat remain:
A few dropped catches, a missed penalty,
Deliberate mistakes… and then again,
The Moloch of the betting industry.

You may earn sporting kudos on the pitch
But filthy lucre makes the heart beat faster. 
Should orchestrated failure make you rich,
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Basil Ransome-Davies/‘One Art

And the fire and the rose are one
she said, the fire and the rose are one.
When a canker shows on the rose
it’s dead, from the darkest root
to the head, she said, and all that grows
in the bed is fed to the easy flame
or your sin will spread from shoot
to fruit like nameless dread
from petal white to red.

When is the time for fire, I said,
when must my blood be shed?
Midwinter spring is right she said
when a sempiternal smoke is bred
out of an autumn hope that’s fled
from early blight and mildew treason:
midwinter spring is its own season.


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