Competitions nos. 108A and 108B: results

T. Earle Welby (‘Stet’) returns the competition to its Saturday Westminster roots with this one: he asks for a translation of the following lines by Petronius Arbiter:

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Did I mentioned he wanted it rhymed?

Petronius

Petronius

Petronius is best known as the author of Satyricon, Fellini’s version of which had my teenage eyes out on stalks. I thought I had lived and gone to heaven.

Welby’s adjudication is in one of the ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ modes, in which he regrets that some have taken Petronius’ reputation as implying suspicious irony when there is none there. He says he has looked for fidelity but not to the rhythm of the original. Several competitors are commended, including Seacape (not seen in the winner’s paddock for a while), H.C.M., Alice Herbert, William Bliss, the dinner-proposing Guy Hadley, and, of course, T.E. Casson. However, he gives the palm to the veteran Lester Ralph, and the half-guinea to someone who was already well-known as a classicist: John Mavrogordato.

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Mavrogordato (1882-1970) had his portrait painted by Mark Gertler (who had had an affair with Carrington, and who is thought to be the inspiration for Loerke in Women In Love), and you can see it here. Mavrogordato had Greek forebears, and throughout his life, was active in the English-Hellenic relationship, was anti-royalist (in Greece), anti-war, and a proselyte for the League of Nations. He had worked on the edge of literary journalism, and was a slightly dilatory academic (he didn’t actually gain a post until 1939, when he was 57). The two things he put most into in life have received a mixed or hostile reception. He translated all of C.P. Cavafy’s works; and he had a plan for a Balkan confederacy based on Delos. His Cavafy is often thought too literal; the Greek plan sounds like the plan of a dreamer.

108B is to be an eight-line epigram on having escaped the perils of the Bank Holiday roads. This competition is dealt with briskly. The guinea goes to O.H.T.Dudley, and the half-guinea to Baldwin S. Harvey.

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Meanwhile, Guy Hadley’s letter proposing a competitors’ dinner (one can safely guess that there has been a precedent at the Saturday Review) has met with some initial responses:

T.G.Usborne, who describes himself as a second prize winner, so must be one of the names behind the countles pseudonyms, offers to defray the expenses of the dinner by offering the services of others in his position to wait on table, warning that the big names had better turn up their collars during the soup course, as his hands shake in the presence of greatness. Barry notes that there are several takers, but that he hopes to hear from more veterans before proceeding.

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