Competitions nos 58A and 58B: results

Another new judge: Gordon Phillips, the diarist and satirical poet of the Manchester Guardian, who wrote under the pen-name Lucio. Presumably this is the in-joke behind his 58A competition, in which he asks us to imagine that a Bright Young Person called Leuconoe (or Lucy) is showing signs of taking seriously to table-rapping, and similar, a development viwed with apprehension by her Boy Friend (sic) Horace, who urges her to stand fast in her older intention of Having A Good Time. His advice in verse, please, in 12-24 lines. And if you haven’t picked up the classical reference yet, ‘The results, though modernised, should obviously bear some relation to Q.Horatius Flaccus in Book 1, Ode XI.’ That’s Horace to you and me.

Here is A.S.Kline’s translation (2003):

BkI:XI Carpe Diem

Leuconoë, don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.

Phillips is a complimentary judge, particularly about Gertrude Pitt, L.V.Upward, T.E.Casson (in case you thought he’d packed it in), Chauve-Souris, R. Mal, and the ‘dignified’ Seacape. He opts for A.J.Perman (with some strictures about the scansion of the 10th line, which he doesn’t think Horace would have liked) as the winner and W.R.Y as runner-up.

WR Comp 58

WR Comp 58a

It’s easier, says Phillips for 58B, to stand forth as a knowing fellow by exalting the French hotel while damning the English inn. In the hope that some readers have struck it lucky over Easter (it is now May), he asks for five reasons for the superiority of The Bull’s Head over the Tete Boeuf. He specifies 150 words, but the winner is a poem by Lob (a new name), and the runner-up another new name, John Stevenson, who says he’s just had a good Easter. The others praise the tea and the breakfasts, but not the frequency of the veal in France, which puzzles Phillips; and he is surprisingly taken aback by the many paeans to Beer. The Billiard Table and English coffee (that’s a surprise) also get the thumbs up.

WR Comp 58b

WR Comp 58c

Competitions 35A and 35B: results

Dyneley Hussey cites Walter Savage Landor’s poem


and asks for a version substituting someone other than Rose Aylmer (who was incidentally a real person, a friend of Landor’s who died in 1800 aged 21). Suggestions include Will Shakespeare and Max Aitken (the latter also the hook for 35B). In the event, the entrants commended have had a shot at Gus Mahler, Charles Chaplin, Don Bradman, Pavlova, but the winner is more traditional. A.J. Perman (who is starting to do rather well) goes for Vergil:

                  Ah! what avail’d the tender heart?
                    Ah! what the sculptur’d line?
                What perfect word and perfect art?
                   Vergilius, all were thine.

               Vergilius, whom my youthful eyes
                    With joy could never see,
                These few words to apologise
                     I consecrate to thee.

This seems a little sappy for two guineas (this is one competition that would be done well now, I think). L.V.Upward gets the second prize.

                  Ah what avails the I.L.O.
                    Ah! What that sub. of mine!
               What energy, what push and go,
                   Tom Beecham, all were thine.

                Tom Beecham, whom the B.B.C.
                   Annoy’d but never still’d,
                How glad Elysian fields will be
                    To see thy concerts bill’d.

[Beecham was not dead, incidentally – he died in 1961 – but he had just failed to secure an arrangement with the BBC to form a radio orchestra]

35B asks for a three verse ballad called ‘Follow-my-leader’, with the refrain ‘I’ll follow any leader if the leader follows me.’ The cue for this was Lord Beaverbrook’s (i.e. Max Aitken’s) announcement that he would back Baldwin, the Conservative leader – see the Origins section – an endorsement he offered with these words: ‘I confess that the leadership [of Baldwin] suits me, provided that the leaderrship carries with it the policy I support.’ Baldwin

The winner is a new name, Arthur Oliver:


and the runner-up is another new name, T.G.U.:


Competitions 28A and 28B: results

Another new judge: the art critic Anthony Bertram. He also wants translations, and has asked for a rendition of a four-line Goethe poem:


As before, the translations do not go well. J.W.Pepper gets the only prize, with the spare half-a-guinea being added to the 28B pot.

                                                                     Why interrupt this quiet season?
                                                                          Leave me in peace beside my bowl.
                                                                     Though converse be the feast of reason,
                                                                         ‘Tis solitude inspires the soul.


I wonder if ‘converse’ was really in everyday use.

For the second, and perhaps more demanding competition (it’s usually the other way round) competititors had to imitate Gibbon, and have him look back on the stand made by A.P.Herbert for individual liberty in the 1930s and 1940s. The winners (two of whom are from the original five signatories) are Lester Ralph, A.J. Perman, and Non Omnia. They’re skilful parodies, but they’re not actually very interesting, I don’t think, although Herbert himself was a remarkable man. Born in 1890, he’d made his name as a writer in Punch by inventing legal arguments and cases which were both witty and satirical. (Herbert had contributed an article ‘Why Not Rationalise The Law?’ to the very first edition of The Week-end Review.) As a novelist – his novel The Water Gypsies had just been published at the time of this competition – he was less well-known. Five years after this competition he was elected as an independent MP for the University of Oxford (Oxford and Cambridge had their own university seats, which gave rise to the curious phenomenon of some people having two votes), and he stayed as the MP until the university seats were abolished in 1950, making the timing of this competition (1930s and 1940s) very prophetic. Herbert died in 1971.


Here are the three winners. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Competitions 26A and 26B: results

A new judge, Charles Riddell, asks for a translation of a French poem by Gisèle Vallerey – Vallerey (1889-1940), born Juliet-Marie Chandon, is still widely read – but not for her poetry. She was a highly successful translator of English classics into French for children (Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and many others). She used a variety of pseudonyms, but Vallerey was her married name (her husband was another translator, and a science fiction writer). Since she was only 39 at the time this competition was set, it is just possible that she was known to Riddell. Her poem’s title means ‘Struggle’


Riddell gets into an enthusiastic excitement about this poem, which he reckons is as good as Racine, and had a particularly great last line, after a stready crescendo. So he is more than a little huffy about the struggles the competitors have had with the poem, ad the last line in particular. The end result is a narrow first victory for L.V.Upward (Leslie Vaughan Upward), who has been edging closer for a while. Second is A.J.Perman.

Translations, and not always from extant languages, were a staple of competitions of the time, and continued to be. Unless memory fails me, the last person to set a New Statesman translation competition was Derek Mahon, the Northern Ireland poet who was briefly deputy literary editor in the second half of the 1980s. (It was a sixteen-line French sonnet, and I think quite possibly by Mallarmé.) Here is Upward’s effort:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Riddell spots that he’s missed out the first half of line 7. Here is Perman’s shot:


As I’ve suggested before, the writers, readers – and judges – of The Week-end Review are firmly of the Georgian persuasion. Interesting that both the winners use the not-everyday phrase ‘the morrow’s task’.

26B is another particularly literary endeavour., with a French twist. Shakespeare and Moliere meet ‘in the Elysian fields’ and discuss Comic Acting. As Riddell remarks, it’s odd that the competitors tended to depict Shakespeare as the champion of comic buffoonery (not much evidence of the spirit of the speech of Hamlet to the players, or of Shakerspeare’s alleged objections to Will Kemp, then). The winner is Non Omnia, one of the signatories of the letter printed in the first edition of The Week-end Review. Second prize goes, only after some serious thought, to W.G. Here are their efforts: