Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: Platinum Jubilee poems from Kipling and A.A. Milne

Spectator competition winners: Platinum Jubilee poems from Kipling and A.A. Milne
‘If you can keep your throne when others totter…’ [History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images]
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In Competition No. 3251, you were invited to submit a poem to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee in the style of a poet present or past. Perhaps inspired by the lines written by William McGonagall to mark the death of his beloved Queen Victoria – Alas! our noble and generous Queen Victoria is dead,/And I hope her soul to Heaven has fled… – several competitors, including G.M. Southgate, Jerry Emery and Ewan Brown, imagined the Bard of Dundee paying tribute to Her Majesty. And top of the pops among the poets laureate was John Betjeman.

In a smallish but well-made and jolly entry, Mark Bellis, Ian Barker and Janine Beacham earn honourable mentions. The winners snaffle £25 each.

If you can keep your throne when others totter 

And join it to a democratic creed, 

If you can bear it that one son’s a rotter, 

Another keen as mustard to succeed; 

If you can wave and not get sick of waving, 

At multitudes whose names you do not know 

Or listen to a bonkers PM raving, 

While never letting your impatience show; 


If you can treat stale rituals as normal, 

The cutting of the ribbon and all that, 

Where every single move is tightly formal 

And dress and coat must always match the hat; 

If you can serve a role that must be gruelling, 

But protocol forbids you to protest, 

For three score years and ten of steadfast ruling 

Then frankly, Ma’am, I feel you need a rest. 

Basil Ransome-Davies/Rudyard Kipling
Dame Lilybyt quene 

Lyke an evergrene 

And woundersly clene 

Of pacient mien 

For she is blest, I wene 

With her dyadem 

And her satyn hem, 

Her skyn of platynem; 

She is soverayne at courte 

Where folys disporte 

But yet hath she wyttes 

To defye gredy shyttes 

Over sevynty yere 

So lat us not jere 

But prayse with the quyll 

Her Majyste Ympossybyl. 

Bill Greenwell/John Skelton
This was not pre-ordained, and she was not 

Born for the crown, but yet the wayward king 

Threw majesty away, unwisely wed, 

Leaving Elizabeth to face the throne, 

And, too soon after that, t’assume the role 

Of monarch one grey February day. 

The best traditions were maintained; to be 

A head of state, to keep stability 

Though we be led by decent folk or rogues. 

Empires and commonwealths dissolve away, 

Alliances may shift, but she stayed firm. 

Even her kinfolk acted wantonly, 

But never she. The years saw her adapt 

With moderation, seven decades long, 

With much good done, and many changes seen, 

Since accident and fate made her a Queen. 

Brian Murdoch/Shakespeare
We’re running out of elements to celebrate your jubilees, 

so some are saying iodine and others reckon manganese. 

We’ve eulogised your majesty in silver, gold, and platinum, 

and Charles opines the next one may be arsenic or tantalum. 

A monarchy on bicycles would recommend titanium; 

we wouldn’t need the Russian gas if we could use uranium. 

If hearts were filled with helium you’d know that it was flattery; 

a festival of lithium would soon discharge your battery. 

Now Vladimir suggests he toasts your tenure with plutonium 

and stirs your lapsang souchong with a spoonful of polonium. 

Europium or francium are now impossibilities: 

we’re running out of elements to celebrate your jubilees. 

Nick MacKinnon/Tom Lehrer
They’re staying put at Buckingham Palace – 

Christopher Robin asks why of Alice. 

‘She’s been on the throne now for awfully long, 

But she thinks that to abdicate would be wrong,’ 

        Says Alice. 

They’re staying put at Buckingham Palace – 

Christopher Robin asks why of Alice. 

‘A Platinum Jubilee’s quite a thing, 

And nobody wants to see Charles as King,’ 

        Says Alice. 

They’re staying put at Buckingham Palace – 

Christopher Robin asks why of Alice. 

‘Well, once she is gone, we’ll get Queen Camilla, 

So God give her strength to remain at the tiller,’ 

        Says Alice. 

Brian Allgar/A.A. Milne
O jubilate! Now our Queen 

Joins us in celebration 

To mark the matchless years she’s been 

The Monarch of our nation. 

Let bells and laughter ring around 

To meet this joyful day 

As if the time since she was crowned 

Has melted quite away. 

But even as we do rejoice 

In moments we shall treasure 

Let us as well give thankful voice 

For a life beyond mere measure. 

We know without dry calculation 

The symbol she has been 

Of grace and selfless dedication 

As our most noble Queen. 

W.J. Webster/John Betjeman

No. 3254: hard times

You are invited to tweak a well-known book title to reflect the straitened times we live in (e.g. Lidl Women) and provide an extract of up to 150 words. Please email entries to by midday on 15 June.