Preposterous pet

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

19 March 2016

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2939 you were invited to submit a poem about a famous person and an unlikely pet.

There’s plenty of inspiration out there in the real world. A photograph from 1969 shows Salvador Dalí emerging from the subway, his rather dejected-looking pet anteater in tow. And then there is Gérard de Nerval, who considered the lobster to be an ideal companion: ‘They are peaceful, serious creatures … and they don’t gobble up your monadic privacy like dogs do.’ He used to take his for a walk round the Paris-Royal in Paris on a lead made of blue silk ribbon.

You more than matched these -bonkers pairings. Theresa May’s jellyfish; Boris Johnson’s loris; Attila the Hun’s hippo; Jane Austen’s axolotl; all deserve an honourable mention. Those entries printed below take £20. The bonus fiver belongs to Basil Ransome–Davies.

George Eliot’s an honoured name,
But few have cared to note
That backing up this classy dame
And everything she wrote,
Thus magnifying the acclaim
That floated George’s boat,
Were Goethe, who copped all the fame,
And Archibald, her goat.
He was a youthful Appenzell,
But wise beyond his years,
Whose ego-massaging would quell
The author’s doubts and fears.
The tinkling of Archie’s bell
Was music to her ears
And when she came to eat him, well —
She shed remorseful tears.
Basil Ransome-Davies
When in remembrance of times past we glance
At what was loved by people who were great,
Let us recall how Shakespeare got by chance
A she-bear as his comforter and mate.
One Christmas Day when actors had their feast
A bear was brought by special invitation
And Shakespeare, being partial to the beast,
Brought her back home to give him inspiration.
One evening as he stroked her gentle head
Looking for words to celebrate his art
He smiled to see her resting by his bed;
For her, he thought, I must compose a part.
When he was buried famous folk were there
Carrying Shakespeare — followed by a bear.
Frank McDonald
Picasso had days when his mood would be blue,
he’d say ‘there are times I’m despairing, and yet
although I have women — in fact, quite a few —
there’s nothing could cheer me as much as a pet.’
So he set off to purchase a small manatee,
with a beautiful face; he displayed her with pride
and he took her for walks and they swam in the sea,
but in time he declared ‘I am not satisfied!
‘I’m feeling abstracted — I’m moving her eye
an inch or two higher, perhaps I should squeeze
her mouth to the side, then I think I shall try
to shift the whole head one-eighty degrees.
She’ll go to the salon, and that’s when I shall
endeavour to fashion a mask placed upon
her beautiful nose; then she’ll look quite a gal,
and l’ll call her a Demoiselle d’Avignon.’
Sylvia Fairley
Hitler’s parrot, Aryana,
A snowy, pure-bred Afrikaner,
With right wing raised would screech, ‘Sieg Heil!’
Which made her doting owner smile;
And when the war was going well,
As country after country fell,
He felt a proprietorial pride
That she exclaimed on History’s side.
But when the good news turned to bad,
Most notably at Stalingrad,
The words began to echo round
With something of a hollow sound;
Until at last in führious rage
He upped to pluck her from her cage
And make quite sure she did not talk
Beyond a final strangled squawk.
W.J. Webster
Max Miller
Had a pet gorilla,
A male silverback in its prime,
Which he kept largely on account of the rhyme,
But occasionally, in fact,
To use in his act,
As a filler.
Miller’s jokes were famously blue,
And here the gorilla would help him, too,
And listen while Miller gave new gags a try.
Some double-entendres passed the beast by,
But the ones he liked best
Made him roar and thump his chest,
As gorillas do.
(Fittingly, it is recounted
That he was subsequently stuffed and mounted.)
Brian Murdoch
Walter Bagehot
kept a pet maggot.
His reason is a mystery
since its knowledge of constitutional history
must have been small,
if at all.
What sort of man would make fishing bait
his best mate?
Martin Parker
Brahms had a fling with an aardvark.
But he dumped her just after they’d kissed.
He said ‘Clara Schumann,
Has made me her new man,
So now you’re not top of my Liszt.’
John Priestland

No. 2942: gender reassignment

Now seems like a good time to give a couple of old nursery rhymes a contemporary twist: you are invited to submit a rhyme of up to 16 lines incorporating the lines ‘What are little girls made of?’ and ‘What are little boys made of?’ Please email entries to by midday on 30 March.

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