Competition

Christmas hits rewritten as sonnets

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3179 you were invited to submit a Christmas hit single rewritten as a sonnet.

This seasonal challenge was embraced with gusto, and highlights, in a magnificent entry, ranged from Ian Barker’s version of Jona Lewie’s catchy and affecting ‘Stop the Cavalry’ to Basil Ransome-Davies’s reworking of the peerless Eartha Kitt’s innuendo-laden ‘Santa Baby’. Commendations also go to Matthew Wright, Ross McAlpine, Mary McLean, Sarah Hill, David Silverman and Richard Spencer, but the festive winnings of £20 apiece are awarded to the authors of the sonnets printed below.


The trials of the year have done nothing to diminish your wit and skill; thank you for all your submissions, which it has been a pleasure to judge. A happy Christmas to you all.

It’s Crimbo! Unafraid, we’ll ban the shadows,
And spend our higher incomes bringing grins.
Let’s hug our third world pals, and not be saddoes.
While you are noshing turkey, downing gins,
Consider those whose world is very scary,
Whose sobs provide the only water source —
In countries where the bells mean this: Be Wary
Where Death is ever-present. Feel remorse!
Be thankful that it’s Africans who suffer;
They won’t get snow, they might get half a life.
They have no rivers, crops, it’s all much tougher.
They’ve no idea it’s Christmas! Fear is rife.
So, cheers, my starving dears. No more disparity!
Feel guilty, give them scoff. It’s Christmas charity!
Bill Greenwell/‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’

Let carollers with cheerful voices sing
Of new times coming as the old times go
And, dreaming of Saint Nicholas and snow
Greet Christmas and the little child born king.
May living, giving, trusting, loving, joy
And laughter lighten everybody’s heart
As evil doings of the past depar
While following in the footsteps of the boy.
Then let us all repeat this sweet refrain
Of log fires, presents, mistletoe and wine
For one born king, the child of David’s line,
And, having sung it, sing it through again!
Again, again, again, and yet again
Till, earworm-like, it bores into the brain.
Alan Millard/‘Mistletoe and Wine’

A reindeer known as Rudolph had a snout,
Mutated in its colour, tint and tone,
The other reindeer meanly left him out —
They called him names and made him play alone.
His nasal apparatus shone and glowed
In some strange bioluminescent way,
Then when on foggy Christmas Eve it snowed,
Old Santa said ‘Please come and guide my sleigh.’
So Rudolph garnered accolades and fame
By making sure deliveries took place,
And history will celebrate his name
For having dermatitis of the face.
Next year instead of noses that fluoresce,
It might be safer using GPS.
John Priestland/‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’

In festive times, to thee I gave my heart,
Yet thou did’st cast it carelessly away,
And now, lest tears I cannot stem may start,
I strive for distance, keeping thee at bay.
One worthier than thou shall have my heart:
The gift that, wrapp’d with care, was meant for thee.
Now, twelvemonth past, I see thee as thou art
For thou, dissembling, made a fool of me.
And should thy kisses touch my lips again
I’d trust no more the promises they hold,
If thou dost turn to me, thou seek’st in vain,
My unrequited love lies dead and cold.
I’ve taken back the gift I gave to thee,
I weep no more, a new love sets me free.
Sylvia Fairley/‘Last Christmas’

A river waits for me to sail across
On moon beams that will be my boat one day,
A broad and mighty river that will toss
Aside my cares and take my pain away.
And though I cannot tell where I might go
Or on its drifting course what I might see
I’m happy to be taken by its flow
And let the dreamy moonlight swallow me.
We’re like two drifters off to see the world
Placing our trust in what our rainbows hold
And on that someday river, starlight-pearled,
We’ll surely find our secret store of gold.
And so, Moon River, let me cross in style
Your phantom waters, wider than a mile.
Frank McDonald/‘Moon River’

Where are the snows of Christmas yesteryear
Which now are made the stuff of dreams for me?
Fresh memories come of how I used to peer
To see the glistening white on every tree;
We listened then for sleigh bells in the snow
And still I can recall them to my mind:
Those are the scenes and sounds I’ll always know,
That keep my past and present intertwined.
Now prompted by the Christmas cards I write
The snow-filled times of joy return anew:
I see again the brilliance of the light
And wish that I might share that sight with you.
I hope your days may merry be and bright
And that your Christmases may all be white.
W.J. Webster/‘White Christmas’

You’re best advised to keep yourself alert.
Don’t thrust a sullen lip. Don’t wail or weep.
The North Pole’s strictest worthiness expert
Will soon stop by your home while you’re asleep.
He writes it down when you do something right,
And keeps a record when you fail or swerve,
So when he shows up at your place one night,
He’ll know what gifts you do or don’t deserve.
His eye is on you when you’re snug in bed.
He watches as you go about each day.
To dodge harsh consequences you might dread,
Be virtuous in all your work and play.
Be good, be good, be very, very good.
You know he’s coming, so you know you should.
Chris O’Carroll/‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’

No. 3182: over to the dark side

You are invited to rewrite a famous piece of light verse (please specify) as a hieratic dirge. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 13 January. We are now paying winners by cheque, unless you state on your entry that you would prefer to be paid by bank transfer.

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