Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: John Milton’s ‘Three Blind Mice’

Credit: Lebrecht Music & Arts / Alamy Stock Photo

In Competition No. 3326 you were invited to submit a nursery rhyme recast in the style of a well-known poet.

One of my favourite twists on a nursery rhyme is Lewis Carroll’s ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat’, the Mad Hatter’s party piece in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a teatray in the sky.  

But ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ popped up only occasionally in the entry, outflanked by ‘Humpty Dumpty’, ‘Jack and Jill’ and, star of the show, ‘Three Blind Mice’. David Silverman leads the way with Milton’s version. He and his fellow winners take £25.

Of murine woe and grief agrarian
Sing, Heav’nly Muse, that mortals might behold
That triune troop of mice, devoid of light,
As, paw in paw, with stumbling steps and swift
They through the farmyard squeak their sightless way –
Oh dark, dark, dark amid the blaze of noon!
While they consider how their light is spent,
There stands their ruthless, rustic Nemesis.
Mad, merciless, she brandishes her blade –
As sharp as those that bore the Cherubim
That guard the gates of Eden’s Paradise –
Which thrice she strikes through their ill-fated tails.
Oh e’er was there as sorry sight as this?
Three meek and blameless creatures, wrought of God,
Aforetime sightless, tailless now, each mouse
So shortened by a cruel farmer’s spouse?

David Silverman/Milton’s ‘Three Blind Mice’

Half a league, half a league,
Ten thousand fighting men
Lining up side by side
Ready for battle, when
‘Upwards!’ the Old Duke cried –
Moving with measured stride
Marched the ten thousand.
Theirs not to reason why,
Reaching the top, the cry
‘Make the descent!’ and then
Ten thousand fighting men
Turned and marched down again.
Theirs but to do or die,
On the hill, high or low,
Halfway down, to and fro
Marched the ten thousand.

Sylvia Fairley/Tennyson’s ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’’

Young Humphrey had a system which
Had made him fabulously rich.
Until he had his sudden fall
He traded on a street called Wall.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in