Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition: write a poetic short story (plus: Philip Larkin’s version of Humpty-Dumpty)

The invitation to recast a nursery rhyme in the style of a well-known author attracted a large and lively entry that was evenly split between prose and poetry. In general, verse worked better, as reflected in the winning line-up below. (G.K. Chesterton did ‘Old King Cole’ as written by Tennyson, Browning, Whitman, Swinburne and Yeats, so you were in stellar company with this week’s task.) Commendations go to Chris Port, Mike Morrison, Max Ross, Nick MacKinnon, Adrian Fry and Mark Shelton. Here’s a taste of Mr Fry’s ‘There Was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe’ as Alan Bennett might have done it:

‘This being Sheffield before the proper provision of social housing, it was less this unusual accommodation that fascinated — a tan brogue, I recall — than her inability, as social workers now insist on understating the condition, to cope.’

The winners earn £25 each. Chris O’Carroll takes £30.

Chris O’Carroll/Edgar Allan Poe Once upon a sturdy tuffet sat a maid         the world calls Muffet, Dining on a wholesome bowl of dairy         oddments, curds with whey. On a sudden, just beside her, she espied         a loathsome spider; Cold abhorrence surged inside her.         She could find no words to say, No ejaculations suited to convey her         deep dismay, Not a single word to say.

Vile arachnids, large and hairy, tender         lactovores find scary, So the frighted maid abandoned all her         curds and all her whey. Muffet gazed upon the spinner of silk         traps to snare its dinner, Felt her vitals churn within her, knew         she could not stay and play. In the presence of this insect-eating         fiend she dared not stay. Up she sprang and ran away.

Alan Millard/John Bunyan He who would rodents three Spare from disaster, Let him, though blind they be, Bid them run faster.

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