Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: lives in three limericks

‘A young poet and man about town/ Earns bot mot virtuoso renown…’ [Niday Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo]

In Competition No. 3240, you were invited to tell the life story of a well-known figure in three limericks.

In the excellent How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry, E.O. Parrott summed up the charms of the form neatly:

With a shape of its own it’s imbued – That’s the limerick, witty or lewd;       Two lines, then you oughter       Have two more, much shorter Then one longer that’s funny or rude.

Though there was wit aplenty in the entry, you there was little appetite for bawdiness. Brian Murdoch, Sylvia Fairley, Frank Upton, Carolyn Beckingham and David Silverman earn honourable mentions.

The prize winners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 each.

A young poet and man about town Earns bon mot virtuoso renown,       Aesthetic, ironic       And self-made iconic As philosopher/dandy/wit/clown.   Comic plays win him fortune and fame, Make his British lit pantheon name.       Then a Lord with whose boy       He’s shared dare-not-speak joy Wins a bout, and his life’s not the same.   He does gaol time for sexual crimes (Blameless acts in more civilised times),       Then self-exiles in France       To conclude the romance With harsh truth in lush rhythms and rhymes. Chris O’Carroll/Oscar Wilde

William Shakespeare’s the bard of our nation, With his plays a poetic sensation;       In his sonnets of fire       He had power to inspire And his words are a timeless quotation.   He performed in the age of Queen Bess And for James his Macbeth meant success.       With the force of his pen       He was monarch of men And his craft never failed to impress.   He made comedy when he was dead For his wife got his second-best bed;       And a tragic surprise       Is, where lifeless he lies, Like poor Yorick he’s minus his head. Frank McDonald/Shakespeare

Born in London, this lad was no fool, He was tutored at Oswestry School.       Of brains not deprived       At Oxford he thrived And, as warden at New College, ruled.   With a wife and five children to raise He taught for the rest of his days,       But being befuddled       His words he’d get muddled And call foggy days, ‘doggy fays’.   It’s a tragedy one of the best Should be famed as a figure of jest       And sadly this saint,       Who was clever though quaint, Was at Grasmere at last ‘raid to lest’! Alan Millard/William Archibald Spooner

Salute to the great Enid Blyton! Though never a lit’r’ry titan,       Her books, on the boil and       From Kirrin to Toyland, Entertained where they didn’t enlighten.   At Newnes, funny tales filled her head; And she wed her commissioning ed.       Their daughters were later       Both banned from their Pater, For she moved in a new Dad instead.   She bombarded the world’s under-twelves With fairies and pixies and elves,       With the picnicking frolics       Of ginger-beer-holics. (These were banned from the library shelves.) Bill Greenwell/Enid Blyton

The Tories chose Heath with great care As something more ‘vin ordinaire’       Than their normal tradition       Of vintage patrician With privilege rather than flair.   But apart from his music and yacht It was unclear what talents he’d got;       While his famed three-day week       Plumbed new levels of bleak And saw Britain’s prosperity shot.   Then Thatcher derailed his career Thus causing much Tory good cheer       Though his petulant hulk       Sat on in a sulk In the Commons for year after year. Martin Parker/Edward Heath

His comfortable bourgeois nativity Had somehow instilled a proclivity       For clever critiquing       Of anything reeking Of common commercial activity.   While flaying with lifelong legerity The wealthy, he shared the prosperity       That Engels inherited,       Albeit unmerited, But otherwise lived in austerity.   He found the free money sublime, And savoured it while there was time;       His readers, he reckoned,       Perhaps any second Might deem it a Kapital crime. Alex Steelsmith/Karl Marx

No. 3243: lost and found

You are invited to submit a poem about the discovery of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance. Please email entries of up to 16 lines words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 30 March.

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