Belloc-esque cautionary tales for our times

9 January 2021

9:00 AM

9 January 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3180 you were invited to submit a Belloc-esque cautionary tale featuring a high-profile public figure.

Cautionary Tales for Children, published in 1907 and ‘designed for the admonition of children between the ages of eight and fourteen years’, featured such cruel and hideous comeuppances as being eaten, feet upwards, by a lion and being burnt to a crisp. Yours were generally rather less grisly, but props to Chris Ramsey for his pay-off to the sad story of Dom, who ended up whacked like a mole: ‘The moral is: for all their dash,/ All Spads, like spuds, end up as mash.’

No one drew a parallel between weepy Matt Hancock and Belloc’s incurably lachrymose Lord Lundy, destined to be the next prime minister but three, who fell from favour because ‘A hint at harmless little jobs/ Would shake him with convulsive sobs’, though the Secretary of State for Health does appear in the winning line-up.

Those poems printed below earn their authors £25 each.

O children, heed my words today:
Beware the fate of Donald J!
He learnt when he was but a youth
That lies work better than the truth;
He found his ends were best achieved
By telling lies that all believed.
‘I’m smarter than George Washington!’
Declared mendacious Donald John.
‘If I’d chopped down that cherry-tree,
I would have sworn it wasn’t me!’
He lied until his face turned blue
And he himself believed them too.
He lost the vote, yet lied and lied.
‘I’m still the President!’ he cried.


So, children, tell the truth hereon
Lest you end up like Donald John.
Brian Allgar

Young Matthew Hancock’s Chief Delight
Was giving harmless folk a Fright:
Appearing nightly on TV
He Prophesied Calamity
And Terrified the people till
A lot of them became Quite Ill
And duly featured in the Graphs
Of two men, Wise but Short on Laughs,
One called Vallance, one named Whitty
(Members of the Sage Committee),
Which proved if you Defied the Ban
On Mixing, you would Kill your Nan.
Alas, a Warning so Severe
Instilled such Universal Fear
That Everybody stayed inside
So couldn’t help as Matthew Died.
J.C.H. Mounsey

Rish Sunak had a winning Grin:
Whatever Depths they dunked him in,
He came up with the broadest Smirk.
They pinched him hard. It didn’t work —
They stole his Pencils, Marbles, Chips,
But still he kept his Twinkling Lips.
One day at School, a Prefect quit,
And Rishi, who was Up For It,
Was elevated, and apace.
The Smile grew wider on his Face.
They sent him — it was like a Dream —
To run the Tuck Shop’s income stream.
Within a Week, the Shelves were bare,
Its Tables all in Disrepair.
The Head Boy wailed ‘You Stupid Child!’
But Gracious! how Rish Sunak smiled.
Bill Greenwell

Now heed the tale of Jonathan
Who ran a metaphorathon.
He thought we’d all feel better for
One long extended metaphor
Of yoghurts, goals and trains to catch
Until, one day, he met his match.
When sharing podia with Boris,
Steeped in Pericles and Horace,
They traded figurative speech:
Analogies, a dozen each
Until BJ and JVT
Lost all touch with reality.
Then JVT said VAR
Had ruled BJ had gone too far:
Beware lest, due to words mis-spoke,
The truth itself goes up in smoke.
David Silverman

When Alexander Johnson erred,
Was vile in deed or crass in word,
A Johnson with his middle name
He’d fabricate to take the blame
And so it was this ‘Boris’ who
Slathered the Pater’s chair with glue
Or pinched the buttock of a maid
While guzzling stolen lemonade.
Young Alexander took it hard
That ‘Boris’, now the family card,
Got more attention than himself
And feeling he was on the shelf
Allowed his alter id and ego
To duet as the ‘Boris’ we know,
Prone to bluster quip and quarrel
If never to evince a moral.
Adrian Fry

Of all the boys I’ve ever seen
The greediest was Master Green:
He’d help himself to all the toys
That should have gone to other boys,
Made sure he got the biggest share
And watched it grow beyond compare.
Alas, he always wanted more,
And carelessly he would ignore
Advice to little children who
Would have their cake and eat it too.
And so it was, one fateful day
They came and took his toys away.
Pray, listen to these words of caution,
Do not take the largest portion:
Boys who want to have it all
Get what’s in store: decline and fall.
Sylvia Fairley

No. 3183: adverbial

You are invited to submit a short story entitled ‘My Year of Living [insert adverb of your choice here]. Please email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 20 January. We pay winners by cheque, unless you state on your entry that you would prefer to be paid by bank transfer.

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