As seems just, W. Hodgson Burnet is given this competition to set and judge. This is the first competition (in this series) to give a creature the right to respond to its creator, in this case the cuckoo to Wordsworth. Here’s the original:
O blithe newcomer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice:
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering Voice?
While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear;
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off and near.
Though babbling only to the vale
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.
Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;
The same whom in my schoolboy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.
To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen!
And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.
O blessed birth! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, fairy place,
That is fit home for Thee!
The entries aren’t allowed to be longer than that (!) And, unable to hold back, WHB insists they begin with his own verse (one can sense the frustration that he isn’t allowed to enter):
Is that old Wordsworth there? Hold hard!
I thought I heard your voice.
Say, William! Shall I call you bard,
Or have you any choice?
Hmmm. Not that witty …
The winner is James Hall. (We know that there were 51 entrants, incidentally.) The runner-up is Issachar, who has previously been referred to as female, but is described as ‘he’ in this case. The one who just misses out is Sylvia Groves (and T.E. Casson not far behind). Groves had come close to winning a couple of Spectator competitions in 1932, so she was plainly keen. WHB starts his report with yet another piece of parody:
My heart leaped up when I beheld
So many pert replies,
But frankly, when I’d read them through,
I had it very hard to choose the two
To whom I felt myself compelled
To give a prize!
Until today I never knew
That cuckoos in their nests could be
So impudent with such variety!
For the B competition, he wants new but future dictionary definitions (competitions like this still exist) as in this (WHB-invented!) one for ‘Pedestrian’:
This is a natty little comp, but the curse of the B competition continues – there is only one winner, Ronald Bargate (as mentioned before, he is an architect’s son, and the only other thing I can discover is that he started World War II as a junior officer) although several who come up with one or two (there is an entrant called George T. Hay who is starting to figure in the nearly-made-it lists):