Competitions 9A and 9B: results

Dyneley Hussey admits that his request for translation or imitation of Apollinaire’s animal poems haas led to no-one producing three (the maximum allowed) good poems. ‘Many competitors,’ he adds, ‘fell into the error of introducing irrelevancies for the sake of rhyme’ (any entrant to this kind of competition has made that mistake). There is something quite schoolmasterly about Hussey (‘lowered their marks’ … ‘not up to that standard’) – that makes one wonder at first whether he had a teaching career before his military service and journalistic exploits – but he didn’t – it’s merely part of the slight archness of judging the competitions.

Unable to make his mind up, he divides the first prize between H.C.M (a translator) and Seacape (an imitator), and gives the second prize to R.J.Brett (a translator). Valimus, G.A. Newall, Geegee (sic) and A.M.L. are commended.

The Goat of Thibet

The golden Goat of far Thibet,
The fleece that Jason sailed to get,
Are but accounted nothingnesses
Matched with the gold of Julia’s tresses.


Time is a rodent who devours
My eager, gloowing, glittering hours,
And leaves me but the cerement
Of eight and twenty years, ill-spent.


Yes, I shall go, and in the tomb
Awake some dark, appointed doom,
The victim of a Latin word,
Ibis – and an Egyptian bird.


The Mayfly

This mayfly, when its wings unfurled,
Lived but an hour to judge the world,
And as that hour was bare of sun,
What merit has its judgment won?


As swallows fluttering on high,
Our thoughts turn upward to the sky;
But the scant harvest that they bring
Would shame the humblest wingèd thing.


The teeth of each besetting vice
Nibble at character, like mice,
And till the havoc’s past repair,
None notices the hole is there.


I think Seacape has been lucky to continue his winning streak on this occasion. If we are like swallows, our thoughts aren’t going to turn upward to the sky, are they? It’s a very poor simile. And I have a thing about poems that start ‘Time is …’. Harrumph. The consolation prize of half-a-guinea goes to:

The Goat of Tibet

The fleece of this rare goat is nought
And that of gold, which Jason sought
So long, as little worth for me,
Who have my mistress’ hair to see.

The Mouse

By gentle days the sly mouse Time
Has nibbled half my life away.
For eight and twenty years of rhyme,
Alas! and folly I’ve to pay.

The Ibis

Yes, I shall pass uto your shades,
O Death, whom nothing may beguile!
In his dark Latin, as he wades,
Thus chants the Ibis, bird of Nile.


9B asked for a rewrite of some W.S.Gilbert (‘Iolanthe’) to reflect the choice for infants of being able to vote for not two but three parties. Hussey grudgingly gives two entrants, Sylvia Thompson and old hand but first-time winner in the WR Lester Ralph half-a-guinea each (Hussey’s main general complaint is that he can’t imagine the entries being sung). If you don’t know the song they are parodying, go to Private Willis’s song in the pdf – go to page 28 – you can download it here


As year by year I still parade
On sentry-go (despite Disarmament),
I contemplate the changes made
In Britain’s legislative firmament;         (he’s right, that’s nigh-on impossible to sing!)
Since Queen Victoria passed away
And Edward went to his divinity,
The Labour Party’s joined the fray
And made a kind of blessed Trinity.
      And now each poor bewildered mite
      Must use its Infant Vote, you see,
      To forward a three-cornered fight
      In what we call Democracy;
      And so it never learns a Right
      Hand from a Left hand policy!
                                Fa La.

When Members are inclined to vote
They often find they can’t decide at all
(And like Three Men in the same Boat)
Their leaders hope they won’t divide at all;
Liberal, Tory, Socialist, –
Each bidding to outdo the other chap;
If I’d my way, I would insist
Two Parties’ politics, but three’s a “scrap”!
      For now the Politicians fight
      To catch the Infant Vote, you see;
      By showing them that black is white,
      And all roads reach Democracy;
      And so they never learn a Right
      Hand from a Left hand policy!
                                Fa La.

                  SYLVIA THOMPSON

We’ve done with those old days effete
   of simply bifurcated politics
when Blue and Red assumed his seat,
   by honest means, or else by sorry tricks,
when voters registered their vote
    alternately or just by habitude,
and candidates declaimed by rote
    their views on cabbages and rabbit-food.
        So let’s rejoice with loud fal lal
           fal la la lal, fal la la lal,
        that Nature need no more contrive,
           fal la la lal, fal la la lal,
       that every boy and every gal
           who is born into this world alive
     be either a little Liberal
       or else a little Conservative. 

Now flappers all are free to choose
   with no electoral dignity,
of three the one whose jokes amuse
   them most, or put him in from charity;
nor need the figure of their choice
    described be as mere trilateral
with Beaverbrook’s stentorian voice
   to rouse, confuse, or deftly flatter all.

                 LESTER RALPH

Ralph was himself an artist, an American living in London, who was well-known for having provided the controversial black-and white illustrations to Mark Twain’s Eve’s Diary. In 1930, he was fifty-three. There is more detail about him here,


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