In Competition No. 3097 you were invited to submit a poem about Englishness in the style of a well-known poet.
The line-up was mostly predictable — from Chesterton, so-called ‘prophet of Brexit’, through Larkin, Betjeman, Brooke, Housman and, of course, Kipling. But it was an American, Ogden Nash, whose pen portrait of us prompted me to set this challenge:
Let us pause to consider the English
Who when they pause to consider themselves they get all reticently thrilled and tinglish,
Because every Englishman is convinced of one thing, viz:
That to be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is…
The winners, in a field where the mood ranged from elegiac to caustic, earn £25.
If you can take control back of your border
And sing of Agincourt and Waterloo
And think your mates are all well out of order
To lose their jobs and blame it all on you;
If you can moan and never tire of moaning:
Your belt won’t fit; your neighbour’s on the fiddle;
The trains are late; the Nanny State; it’s raining;
You can’t squeeze through the aisle of a Lidl;
And Brexit’s got you hot under the collar;
You can’t get Heinz baked beans in Magaluf;
And there’s no Burger King in Fuengirola;
The price of curry’s going through the roof.
If you can meet with Spanish, French and German
And treat those Johnny Foreigners as one:
Towels? In the pool. Act innocent, stay firm and
Then you’ll be an Englishman, my son.
David Silverman/Rudyard Kipling
Oft have I travelled in those foreign realms
Where ‘breakfast’ is a concept hardly known,
A dismal meal that sadly underwhelms;
I view the wretched table with a groan.
The Germans offer cheeses, ham, salami;
The Swedes, fish paste that’s horrid, salty, briny.