Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: sonnets on Mammon

Spectator competition winners: sonnets on Mammon
Detail of ‘The Worship of Mammon’, 1909 by Evelyn De Morgan. Credit: Painters / Alamy Stock Photo
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In Competition No. 3250, you were invited to submit a sonnet to Mammon.

It was ‘Epigram for Wall Street’, attributed to the oft-impoverished Edgar Allan Poe, that prompted me to set this moolah-themed challenge. In a large, thoughtful and winningly varied entry, there were echoes ranging from Keats, Milton and Barrett Browning to Gordon Gekko.

Katie Mallett, Janine Beacham, George Simmers, David Silverman, Bob Trewin and Ralph Bateman earn honourable mentions. The winners, printed below, pocket £20 each.

Mammon, I love you. Let me count the ways,

Although that’s strictly my accountant’s chore.

I live delights and scorn laborious days

Thanks to my wealth, while hungering for more.

I build portfolios, by love possessed.

Such words as ‘leverage’ are holy writ.

Lucre is never filthy. Greed is blessed.

The rapture, the divine romance of it!

I love you as an oligarch loves yachts,

Or Texans love a gushing oil well.

I love you as I love those ritzy spots

That cater to a upscale clientele

Swimming in loot, dinero, wonga, dosh.

As for the poor, ‘qu’ils mangent de la brioche’.

Basil Ransome-Davies
Getting and spending, we find riches good,

For purse strings are with heartstrings intertwined.

Unjustly is the golden calf maligned;

When we feel moved to strive for wealth, we should.

‘It’s evil to love money!’ That falsehood

(In every schoolchild’s adage hoard enshrined),

Has, by misguiding many a youthful mind,

Left capital’s romance misunderstood.


Commerce has built up nations, science, art.

The ground and bulwark of our lives is money.

No disposition would for long stay sunny

If our financial system fell apart.

Despite the grim knell socialists have tolled,

We quite like travel in the realms of gold.

Chris O’Carroll
A god thou art that stands beyond compare,

That claims no truth, that issues no commands;

Lacks holy writ and calls no one to prayer,

Holds out high hopes yet makes no strict demands.

Thy spirit works within the human core

Where dread of want once helped the racesurvive:

That fear turns now to wanting ever more,

For with thy faith to covet is to thrive.

A tithe of all such gains, both small and great,

Is owed to thee to celebrate and bless:

Its quantum is not hard to calculate,

Since what it constitutes is all excess.

What we pursue or take beyond our need

We lay before thee in the name of greed.

W.J. Webster
Much have I travelled round in search of gold

And many an empty rainbow’s end I’ve seen;

In countless cruel casinos I have been

Hoping to have a win of wealth untold.

But fortune never came; however bold

My bids to be as wealthy as the Queen,

My greatest efforts left me poor and lean

Till Mammon lost its lustre and its hold.

Then felt I like a sinner freed from sin

Washed clean of lust and longing for excess,

And fate at last no longer seemed unfair.

Contentment with my lot counts as a win

And now when life awards some small success

I feel I have become a billionaire.

Frank McDonald
The avaricious race on vicious loops;

The more they get, the more they fret for loot –

Yet if their income droops, like nincompoops

They feel oppressed and think they’re destitute.


Though Adam Smith dispelled the myth that lust

For heaps of pelf is in itself a sin,

When grabby heirs of billionaires go bust

We’re not devoid of schadenfreude’s grin.


Rapacity’s capacity is vast;

It’s everywhere that laissez-faire exists.

You think you’ve got it vanquished? Not so fast;

Cupidity’s stupidity persists.

And so a poet pens inchoate bosh

In hopes his wit will bag a bit of dosh.

Alex Steelsmith
Mammon is at Cambridge too, although

I never see him sweating in the stacks.

He’s not so energetic as to row,

but prowls in punts for hours along the Backs.

He sears a swath through every May Week ball:

gorges on oysters and champagne till dawn,

rampages round the silent-disco hall,

then pukes kaleidoscopes on Fellows’ Lawn.

It somehow never seems to make him fatter.

Mammon always gets the pretty girl

though she looks dazed and teary in the morning.

He’ll scrape a third. It doesn’t even matter.

He bridles at the mildest hint of warning.

Mammon knows how soon he’ll rule the world.

Mary McLean
When I consider how my loot is spent

the boomers make an oligarch look cheap:

we maxed the gilts out so the debt’s waist-deep,

and scraped the barrel clean in Brae and Brent.

We bought the houses up and charge you rent

our ops-and-drugs bill makes its annual creep;

a gold-plate pension would make Midas weep,

and now inflation’s touching ten per cent.

The post-war babies had a Mammon tree

with double Miras off the mortgage rate;

our parents’ lolly came to us tax-free –

we sent their care bill to the nanny state;

the feckless and the work-shy old agree:

we all deserve who only stand and wait.

Nick MacKinnon

No. 3253: me time

You are invited to provide a poem entitled ‘Song of Myself’ in the style of a well-known writer. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 8 June.