Spectator competition winners: deflationary couplets

7 November 2020

9:00 AM

7 November 2020

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3173 you were invited to give a fresh twist to a well-known single line of poetry by adding a line of your own to it.

This was a wildly popular competition, and my inbox was flooded with entries. Many of you were thinking along the same lines, which produced a fair amount of duplication. There were lots of variations on this topical adaptation of Wordsworth, courtesy of John Priestland: ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud,/ As household mixing’s not allowed.’ And on this new slant on Milton, from Iain Morley — ‘Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new,/ Unless they’ve been destroyed for HS2’. D.A. Prince’s take on Yeats — ‘I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree/ In case the Government decrees that we must be Tier Three’ — was echoed frequently elsewhere in the entry.

The winners, printed below, pocket a fiver per couplet.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
And uttered filthy thoughts aloud.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Wordsworth

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
She slapped his face and told him not to stare.
They also serve who only stand and wait
And get the sack because their trains run late.
Chris O’Carroll/St Vincent Millay/Milton

Hope is the thing with feathers. (Not lust, that’s whips and leathers.)
Janine Beacham/Dickinson

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
When Uncle Jim, who ‘spots’ them, speaks of trains.
A book of Verses underneath the Bough
Is badly smeared with pigeon droppings now.
I travelled among unknown men
But shall not vote Lib Dem again.
Adrian Fry/Keats/Khayyam/Wordsworth

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And pick my way through the litter-strewn shore, as turds go floating by.
Janet Adams/Masefield

The sure extinction that we travel to
Is better than the year we’ve just been through.
Max Gutmann/Larkin

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,
Though doggie-style’s my favourite these days.
G.M. Davis/Barrett Browning

When I consider how my light is spent,
It should have been included in the rent.
Mike Morrison/Milton

Before the Roman came to Rye, or out to Severn strode,
There were contraflows and closures on the Swindon-Sarum road.
Nick Syrett/Chesterton

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
Although the locals glare at me and shout to ask me why.
Katie Mallett/Masefield

O that this too, too solid flesh would melt!
I must lose weight, or buy a bigger belt.
A.R. Duncan-Jones/Shakespeare

’Twas Brillig, and the slithy toves
Grimmed smarmsy smurques like Michael Gove’s.
Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough:
My wife’s ex-boyfriend lives there now.
David Silverman/Carroll/Betjeman

O for a beaker full of the warm South,
and crackle of pork scratchings in my mouth.
Nick MacKinnon/Keats

I summon up remembrance of things past
To make my novel last and last and last.
Frank McDonald/Shakespeare

Earth has not anything to show more fair —
If you can see it through polluted air.
Alan Langley/Wordsworth

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
Strike trade deals with Uzbekistan.
Brian Murdoch/Coleridge

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
He wept because his sandwiches were stale.
Philip Wilson/Keats

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay
‘Oh no,’ he groan’d as he woke up, ‘another bloody boring day.’
J.R. Johnson/Tennyson

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
The seagull nicks my chips in rain-soaked Rhyl.
Tracy Davidson/Yeats

A sweet disorder in the dress
Will get your picture in the press.
Bill Greenwell/Herrick

Do you remember an inn, Miranda, do you remember an inn?
I don’t suppose you do, my dear, you drank it dry of gin.
J.M.L. Harris/Belloc

If I should die, think only this of me:
‘He was a fool to eat that clam for tea.’
P.M. Davidson/Brooke

No 3176: to the city

The poet laureate Simon Armitage wrote a poem that started ‘Dear London…’ You are invited to submit a poem addressing a city of your choice. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 18 November. We are now returning to paying winners by cheque, unless you state on your entry that you would prefer to be paid by bank transfer.

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