Lucy Vickery

Water works

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In Competition No. 2755 you were invited to submit an 'Ode to rain'.

No doubt you saw this one coming, what with monsoon June and July's 50 shades of grey skies. In any case, the lively and entertaining postbag the challenge elicited was certainly a welcome antidote to the ongoing misery of being semi-housebound or repeatedly soaked to the skin.

Gerard Benson, Katie Mallett, Mae Scanlon, Roger Theobald and Basil Ransome-Davies were unlucky to miss out on a place in the winning line-up. Those that did make the cut are printed below and rewarded with £25 apiece. Mary Holtby pockets the bonus fiver.

A one-off award this week for the most aptly named competitor goes to Mick Poole.

Come, proper Muses, bring your tears

To this high-water mark of years:

Melpomene and Clio be

The mates of mourning Niobe —

(And Noah, have a word with God,

Who swore there'd be no second flood,

While every street observer marks

A multiplicity of arks)

Rain, rain, O rain!

Alas, what boots it to complain?

No lake can compass thee, no pit, no drain;

Ten thousand brooms sweep over thee in vain.

A sodden nation scarcely can recall

Those Junes of jollity, a sun that scorches...

We would forgive thee, if thou wert to fall

Fatally on the flame of touring torches.

Mary Holtby

To end a drought, by God's good grace

Our prayers are answered with this gift.

The natural order back in place,

Our spirits lift.

We live and prosper by this trade,

The rise of vapour, fall of rain:

Two elements combined and made

An endless chain.

The clouds are reservoirs to tap

For what will be the earth's life-blood

Transmuted into juice and sap

Or leaf and bud.

Without fresh draughts of rain, the lakes

Would shrivel under parching sun

Along with every spring that makes

The rivers run.

W.J. Webster

The sun — harsh, parching tyrant of the sky —

Has been our daily master for too long.

Conquer him, rain. Come, moisten what was dry.

Drown his gold glare in your cool silver song.

Let heaven open, let the clouds release

Their bounty gathered up from land and sea,

Let every current feel its flow increase,

Make inundation our new destiny.

Send eddies swirling round our wellied feet,

Let rowers ply the roads where cars held sway,

Make every roof a drumhead, every street

An urgent stream, a surging waterway.

Bestow on us a forty-day downpour,

Then — bugger rainbows — give us forty more!

Chris O'Carroll

I fear my ode will not be flattering;

I grimly take my pencil and begin,

While raindrops start that dreadful spattering

That tells me summer is icumen in.

It's raining in the streets and on the beaches,

It's raining on my roof, a monstrous din.

The rain will last for weeks, the forecast preaches;

A soggy summer is icumen in.

The lightning's flashing and the thunder's


I'm stuck indoors, and soaking up the gin.

The weather's great for ducks, but I'm not


Torrential summer is icumen in.

They tell me it's essential for the garden,

They say it's beneficial for the skin,

But endless bloody rain! I beg your pardon —

An English summer is icumen in.

Brian Allgar

Ah, rain! the standpipe years are sluiced away

along with hosepipe bans and crunchy lawn

and we recalibrate our fears as day

brings in another grey and gurgling dawn.

The thirsty gardens gulp and slurp, then stop.

Enough's enough. The gutters' overflow

cascades a proud Niagara, every drop

increasing all the squelch and mud below.

The fate of every fete is in its power,

and Rain stopped play's the radio's refrain.

It strips the petals from each opening flower.

The weather forecasts give the same, again.

The reservoirs are filling, nearly drowned,

and rivers are in credit, springs revive.

The ghosts of drought are well and truly drowned

and water gods are very much alive.

D.A. Prince

To you, Jupiter Pluvius, all hail,

Also all showers, torrents, drizzle, sleet,

That we may for our green isle once more claim

The wettest summer since records began,

Nay, since the start of time itself! Let floods

Wash o'er our streets, sink carbon-gushing cars,

Save energy by downing powerlines,

And teach the restless people to sit still,

By letting landslides stop their monstrous trains!

Come, friendly clouds, and pour down upon


On Toxteth, Tyneside, and on Tottenham,

Damp out the fires set by rebellious youth,

Teach them to stay at home with sandbags full —

Even Canute did not defy the skies!

Then shall our Thames-borne Naiads once again

Sing 'Land of Hope and Glory' in the rain.

Brian Murdoch


You are invited to submit a horoscope for cancer or leo written by a well-known literary figure past or present (150 words maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 1 August.