Lucy Vickery

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In Competition No. 3119 you were invited to submit a poem about yellowhammers.

This sparrow-sized songbird has inspired poetry from John Clare’s lovely ‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ to Robert Burns’s unlovely ‘The Yellow, Yellow Yorlin’ (‘But I took her by the waist, an’ laid her down in haste/, For a’ her squakin’ an’ squalin…’)

You took up this challenge with gusto and delivered a top-notch and wide-ranging entry. The winners earn £25 each.

A certain subtle, govian fellow,

When asked what code name he preferred,

Chose ‘hammer’ as a striking word

Then made his point by adding ‘yellow’.

For emberiza citrinella

Was a species badly hit

When Brussels’ CAP that didn’t fit

Sabotaged the hedgerow dweller:

The drive to get far bigger yields

Made acreage easier to combine

But helped to cause a sharp decline

In birds that needed hedged-in fields.

The yellowhammer flies alone

While some birds like to flock together:

It’s glad of its distinctive feather

And sings a song that’s all its own.

W.J. Webster

‘A happy home of sunshine, flowers and streams,’

Wrote Clare of your abode, yet now we know

That in some grim, worst-case scenario

The poet’s words might be the stuff of dreams.

Though prey to snakes your helpless young might be

The future augurs even worse to fear

As fields are ploughed and hedgerows disappear

And meadows sink beneath a rising sea.

Yes, doom and gloom your happy home might mar,

Yet fear not yellowhammer! Cling to hope,

For one who calmly claims that he can cope

Whate’er befalls comes like a rising star

With yellow, straw-like hair and winsome charm

Who, being keen your needs to satisfy,

Would sooner choose in some damp ditch to die

Than fail to save your happy home from harm.

Alan Millard

O hail, blithe emberiza citrinella!

Sing, golden-throated harbinger of doom

And teach us, in the sweetest a capella,

Your amber-lighted prophecies of gloom:

‘A little bit of bread and no French cheese

And shortages of blushful Hippocrene!

Quorn? Quinoa? Avocados? Prawns? No more!’

Each warbling warning wafting on the breeze

Is waved away: ‘Worst Case is what they mean!’

But the songbird’s singing like it knows the score.

O avian Cassandra! ‘Project Fear’

They call you and dismiss your baleful song,

As once, beneath the topless towers of Troy

All Ilium cried, the cataclysm near:

‘Enough experts — that girly swot is wrong!’

They first drive mad, whom then the Gods destroy.

David Silverman

There are scribbles on the shell of ayellowhammer’s egg

That our highest academics can’t decipher.

So there came a wonk from Whitehall who believed himself insightful

And to prove it claimed the pay of an adviser.

‘There are scribbles on the shell of a yellowhammer’s egg,’

He expounded, having caught the problem’s essence,

‘Which are patterns of mere pigment and not fantasy or figment

Nor the smearings from the bird’s recent excrescence.

Now, the scribbles on the shell of a yellowhammer’s egg,

It’s been claimed, are of a script that isn’t Christian.

I concede the story’s quaint, but the Devil’s work they ain’t,

For the truth behind them causes greater friction.

All these scribbles on the shell of a yellowhammer’s egg,

It eventuates, pertain to No Deal Brexit.

Though obscure and opaque, they list measures we must take

If there is No Deal or is and Boris wrecks it.

Adrian Fry

The yellowhammer’s small and shy,

it never wants to catch the eye

or let the curious-minded pry.

It tries to hide.

A ‘little bit of bread’ it sings

and ‘no cheese’; future sufferings

are coded in its flutterings

kept deep inside.

Endangered: that’s its status, so

it keeps its profile very low

afraid that people in the know

might, if they could,

reveal how vulnerable’s its state —

facing starvation, desperate.

The yellowhammer knows its fate

and it’s not good.

D.A. Prince

In the Parliament of Fowls, all the girly swotty owls

Are becoming hot and stressy as the politics gets messy.

Who keeps on despite their clamour?

Plucky little Yellowhammer.

Who’s preparing for the worst, working till he’s fit to burst,

Making sure the country thrives when catastrophe arrives?

He’s far away from front-bench glamour,

Plucky little Yellowhammer.

Yellowhammer keeps on trying, helping Boris do-or-dying.

Other birds may get all flappy, but he’s chirpy, blithe and happy —

And Jacob’s there to check his grammar!

Lucky little Yellowhammer!

George Simmers

No. 3122: much have i travelled...

You are invited to submit a poem about Thomas Cook. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 23 October.