Just one competition this week (prizes: two, one and two half-a-guineas). It’s set by Gerald Bullett. He wants a nursery rhyme (maximum 16 lines) that has the homely air of having been written by accident. This a clever, and I think, rather tough challenge. (Keeping the headful of old nursery rhymes at bay is the problem.)
There’s a large postbag and what Bullett describes as “a riot of kings and cockleboats and hoppitty hoppitty wee wee men”, to the extent that he half-suspects a conspiracy. The nearest loser is W.A. Rathkey, who has his whole effort printed, as does Marion Peacock, who is just behind him in the queue (exasperating for the entrant when this happens!), but there are two clear winners, neither of whom have featured as also-rans, and neither of whom have remembered to send their addresses. The first is called Helen, the second is called Hazard.
Here is Helen’s:
A maid in a green frock,
A queen in a gold,
A hunter in russet,
A ghost in a shroud.
I stood on a hill
And I watched them come on,
But before O could stop them,
Behold they were gone.
I ran so fast to catch them,
But the green and gold went free,
The fellow in the white shroud,
He caught me.
You may well feel that this is quite twee, but I have to say I think it’s ambitious in avoiding an exact rhyme-scheme, and it’s easy to remember, too – crucial.
Here is Hazard’s:
When Jack the Baker made his bread,
He set the dough o’er night,
And on the board above the trough,
He slept till morning light.
He made his bed upon the board
That rested on the dough,
And when the bread began to rise,
The baker did also.
Terrible! Truly terrible! What was Bullett thinking of?! He’s Jack in Part 1 but not in Part 2. The b rhyme in the second verse is really foolish. The only thing it’s got going for it is the double sense of ‘rise’. (I’ve also never seen o’er used for over as in night, but that may be because I have led a sheltered life.) But there we are, it’s given Hazard a guinea.
It’s a curious competition. Bullett is a children’s writer and might be presumed to know what he is doing, but I wouldn’t have chosen Hazard or Bett (anything that rhymes with ‘dilly’ would be straight out).