In Competition No. 3223, you were invited to supply an acrostic poem in which the first letter of each line, read vertically, spells DENNIS AND GNASHER.
A varied and excellent entry, which celebrated with gusto the Beano’s spirit of naughtiness and irreverence, also reflected how it has evolved to accommodate modern sensibilities. As Stuart Jeffries observed recently in this magazine, Dennis’s ‘bottom these days is rarely sore since corporal punishment is frowned upon and so he cannot be given his weekly slippering…’
William McGonagall, a regular fixture in the postbag at the moment, popped up again, this time courtesy of Frank Upton:
DC Thomson & Co Limited of bonnie Dundee!
(Esteemed for jam, jute and journalism and as my home city)
Never in history has there breathed such a Menace
Nor sich a braw wee loon as Dennis!
But he was nudged out by the winners, below, who snaffle £25 each.
Dennis was my boyhood hero
Every Thursday, in the Beano;
Naughty, nasty window smasher,
Never far from faithful Gnasher.
Imp and devil, tiny terror,
Showering trouble on his father,
Always up for something awful,
Never spurning the unlawful.
Dennis was a mayhem planner
Good with saw and club and spanner,
Not afraid of causing panic,
Artful, vengeful, often manic.
Scallywag in black and crimson
He was engineer of arson.
Ever the young mischief master
Ready for a fresh disaster.
Do not drub me with the slipper
Even for my wicked deeds
Never lash me with the leads
Not attached to Gnasher, Gnipper
If you have a cane then burn it
Snap your birch and trim your lashes
Anything you use to thrash is
Now illegal — you must spurn it
Don’t on this skin raise such welts
Gnasher likewise — he’s protected
No one needs to be corrected
And you must retire your belts
Still you’re tempted? You must alter
How you punish my infractions
Each week though for satisfaction
Really go and wallop Walter
Dad it was who took the Beano,
Every week it made him roar;
Not for him the wit of Wodehouse
Nor the sharp satire of Waugh.
It was Biffo and Lord Snooty
Set Dad barking like a seal,
All the family did their duty
Nodding at each awful peal.
Dad said Dennis was his favourite,
Got a kick from all his japes,
Never wolfed a strip but saved it,
Always read it in the jakes.
So, one day, I locked him in it,
‘Ho-ho!’ I thought he’d guffaw,
Except — banged up bare a minute —
Revenging, Dad destroyed the door.
Dennis the rebel, he bursts off the page,
Enduring for decades, yet still the same age,
Noted for mayhem, with Gnasher beside him,
No put-upon postie can ever abide him.
In each strip of Beano it’s anarchy central,
Skateboards and catapults, sends adults mental,
Angus Young’s sibling, eternally wild,
Noisy, chaotic, the devil’s own child,
Demon-like pranks, he’s a battering ram,
Gnawesomely epic and totally blam,
Noisy and messy and spiky and scruffy,
Anti the softies, the boring, the stuffy,
Scoffs at authority, rule-breaking ace,
Hair always spiky, iconic disgrace,
Even the Royal Mail honours their menace
Riotous, rampaging Gnasher and Dennis.
Dundee is the home of jute and jampot:
Exports on the river’s silvery tide.
Now they celebrate their two-tone bampot,
Nihilistic Gnasher by his side.
In the crumpled pages of the Beano
Seven decades pass of shock and awe,
And the folk at DC Thomson see no
Need to stress the letter of the law.
Dennis flaunts his catapult and ammo,
Gnasher’s sunk his canines in your bum.
Never learns that red-and-black’s not camo,
Always gets a skelping from his mum.
Should he ever snatch a snog with Minnie,
Holyrood will deem the strip a crime,
End his reign of menace in Barlinnie
Rehabilitating for all time.
Dennis appeared in 1951,
Embodying the virtues of his day.
No post-post-War New Age had yet begun.
Nasty and short and brutish still held sway.
Instincts for pre-pubescent savagery
Spiked angry as his blade-shaped tufts of hair.
Assaulting softies was his destiny.
No cane or slipper did the adults spare.
Dennis was lonely in his menacing.
God looked down, saw his lack, and did provide
Needed assistance for his Dennis-ing,
A tripe hound mad and faithful by his side.
So let us trust that when we’re at our worst,
Hurling our toxic outbursts at the world,
Even then friendlessness can be reversed,
Real soulmate pirate flags can be unfurled.
No. 3226: show time
You are invited to rewrite, in pompous and prolix style, any well-known simple poem. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 17 November.
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