I wonder what readers made of Clennell Wilkinson’s response to theirs, most of them apparently quite merciless. He dismisses almost all of the entries because they are not funeral orations but ‘sneer[s]’. He wants at least some sensitivity as the USA vanishes in his imaginary set-up. Most competitors are out of action straightaway. (At least he doesn’t quote them. There was a tradition about 30 years ago, not entirely gone, of printing losers, while denying them recompense. ‘About thirty years ago’ makes me sound very very old. In fact it was assumed when I started that I was older then than I am now. But I digress.)
We can go pretty much straight to the judging in this case. First prize goes to C.J.S. (‘after long consideration’); second prize goes to Pibwob (‘almost the only mourner at this irreverent funeral who makes use of his pocket handkerchief’).
Unhappy land! Thy stars are gone,
Not even spangled waves
Show where a gilt-edged Phoebus shone
By Woolworth architraves.
Liberty lies beneath the flood,
Her bier where some speakeasy stood.
And bones of Wall Street braves
Writhe through their coffin-glass of sea
Down eher the flesh has no retaining fee.
Are your stars ocean-buried, too,
Child-cities of the West?
With never a hero who won through
Life’s motion-picture test,
Nor gunman who could shoot the surge
For his film-lady’s last sex-urge?
This is sad interest
To all who know the ways of sharks,
Unless, of course, Ford built his million arks.
Dissolved like vapour from a mirror’s face,
Gone like a ghost when challenged by the morn,
Lost like snow-crystals in a sunny place,
Vanished like dreams that pass the Gates of Horn,
And nothing, nothing, nothing left!
Mile upon mile
The Atlantic seems to smile,
Smile as boastful mother Niobe smiled
Of her first murdered child.
Did the earth heel over, drowning you asleep,
Or had some huge, absymal monster hulled
Your shuddering ship for the waves to enter by?
You make no answer, where you lie
Extinguished, un-Columbuse’d, disannulled,
One with Atlantis in the unfathomable deep.
One thing’s for sure; ‘Woolworth architraves’ must be making its first appearance on the internet. They’re technically skilful, although the end of the second one seems to be weighed down, to have the quality of a suffocating pillow. Both of them say ‘exercise’ to me.
In 7B, Wilkinson has gone for a competition that is going to prove quite popular in The Week-end Review, as it has, presumably, in the Saturday Review. Finding a literary quote to match a real life event – in this case a ‘cup-tie’ – is really a test of those who ‘know’ their literature (I am sure there were dictionaries of quotations, then as now, even if there weren’t search engines). The ‘cup-tie’ was the 1930 FA Cup Final, between Huddersfield and Arsenal. Northern teams had a habit of winning, and Arsenal had only reached the final once, three years earlier, only to lose. Huddersfield had not only won the FA Cup in 1922, they had also been the first team to win the First Division title three years running (1924, 1925, 1926). The game was famous because the airship Graf Zeppelin appeared above the ground, something competitors, as Wilkinson remarks, oddly missed (one suspects they weren’t soccer fans).
Anyway: Arsenal won 2-0, and here are the apposite quotations. The first is from Little Billee, who is to feature frequently, and who takes his name from a poem about a good boy who is nearly eaten by two hungry fellow-sailors in a poem by William Makepeace Thackeray (it must be the only poem he’s known for). He is mis-spelt as ‘Little Billie’, and he’s chosen a pair of lines from Chaucer to fit a defeated Huddersfield player:
He with his feet wol spurne adoune his Cuppe
And to the wode he wol and wormes ete. (The Squire’s Tale)
Second prize goes to James Hall with a quotation from Francis Bacon’s Of Vicissitude Of Things:
They grew to rest on number rather competent than vast: they grew to advantages of place, cunning diversions, and the like: and they grew more skilful in the ordering of their battles … and it hath seldom or never been seen that the far southern people have invaded the northern, but contrariwise.
I think I might have given James Hall the edge!