The Spectator 'Set Text' Results
I'm standing in for jet-setter John again this week.
I'm happy to announce a Spherean presence, thanks to a win for Bazza and an Honorable Mensh for John Beaton - Congratulations, gentlemen! (Lots of us were secretly hoping to make it with this one, I suspect!)
Competition: Set text
Saturday 12th May 2012
In Competition No. 2746 you were invited to submit a sonnet using the following rhymes: pig, bat, cat, wig, jig, hat, rat, fig; lie, red, sob, die, bed, rob. This is a rerun of a brute of a competition that was set back in the 1950s, and the daft rhymes are those given as an illustration of the verse form by the Concise Oxford Dictionary of that time. The final rhyme proved especially bothersome, frequently scuppering otherwise excellent entries.
Nonsense verse was the obvious way to go but a fair few forged ingenious alternative routes. It was a large entry and the standard was high. Well deserved commendations go to Peter Smaill, Janet Kenny, Jenny Hill, Paul Evans, James Bench-Capon, John Beaton, D.A. Prince and Noel Petty. The winners are printed below and are rewarded with Ł20 each. W.J Webster nabs the bonus fiver.
Ah, she had been sweet clover to his pig,
A high, cathedral cavern to his bat,
While he was spiked nemeta to her cat,
The pen to complement her Fleet Street wig.
As one they’d learnt the music of the jig,
And found a home where they could hang a hat;
Had made each other’s pet names Mole and Rat
And played their game of fig leaf over fig.
Their Eden, though, was withered by a lie:
Suspicion drained love’s rose of all its red,
And left no more than silence and a sob.
What they had been was doomed to fade and die,
As mortal things all come to one cold bed.
There is no place on earth time will not rob.
Did Petrarch find the sonnet was a pig,
Like trying to track the flight-path of a bat,
Or second-guessing a domestic cat?
My feeling is he often flipped his wig
And danced a desperate, frustrated jig
While shouting, as he trampled on his hat,
‘It’s only fourteen lines, but love a rat —
It’s worse than swallowing a rotten fig!’
At other times the sonneteer would lie
Hugging a pillow, face tomato-red,
And curse with each self-dramatising sob
‘This ABBA gubbins makes me want to die!’
Then suddenly he’d leap out of his bed
And find a rival poet’s verse to rob.
God help me, I’ve become a bloated pig,
An ugly goat, a slobbering old bat.
Where once I had the sleekness of a cat
I shuffle with a paunch. I wear a wig.
There was a time that I could dance a jig
Like Fred Astaire in evening-dress and hat,
But now I creep in corners, like a rat,
And those I once called friends don’t care a fig.
I’m something of a freak, I cannot lie;
My chins are many and my nose so red
That when I’m near a looking-glass I sob.
I often think it would be nice to die
Free of life’s tortures in a feather bed
When winters beat and batter, mug and rob.
They dined that evening on a roasted pig,
As ‘round the room bright badinage they’d bat.
One lady praised her precious Persian cat,
Another ridiculed her husband’s wig.
A trio played a well-known lively jig,
An Irishman cavorted with a hat;
And absolutely no one smelled a rat,
As each enjoyed a compote made of fig.
This friendly fellowship, it gave the lie
To what was taking place. And then, Code Red!
Confused and startled, some began to sob,
Who quickly realised that they would die.
The night Titanic found her icy bed,
How many people of their lives she’d rob!
My name is Tom. When young I stole a pig
And fled from harm more swiftly than a bat
Whose cave has been invaded by a cat.
We held a feast where father, in his wig,
Piped all his tunes (three hornpipes and a jig)
And mother wore her Sunday frock and hat.
No table scraps were left for mouse or rat
Except a piece of apple and a fig.
Next day the farmer came. I tried a lie
To no avail. He beat me black and red,
And everyone who heard me howl and sob
Assumed that I was surely going to die.
I now am old and wise and, from my bed,
I tell my children’s children not to rob.
J. Garth Taylor
‘This heinous crime I deem preposterous, pig!
To sell your worthless ring and not to bat
An eyelid having fleeced this owl and cat...’
Here paused the judge to readjust his wig
Whereon the guilty pig began to jig
About, now fearful of the beak’s black hat!
The judge resumed, ‘You’re just a thieving rat
And, ringless, look like Adam minus fig-
Leaf — starkers, naked as a barefaced lie!
Small wonder that your chubby cheeks glow red,
It cuts no ice with me to see you sob,
The sentence of the court is that you die
And with these words I put the case to bed:
To charge this pair a shilling was to rob!’
My father eructated like a pig.
My mother was the local mad old bat.
My brother’s thing was torturing the cat.
My Auntie Gladys wore a pubic wig.
My sister mooned the neighbours for a jig,
Then pulled her pants up and passed round the hat,
While Uncle Bruno carried a dead rat.
My god, it stank. He didn’t give a fig.
But that was normal living then — no lie.
We broke the law, were always in the red
And made successive social workers sob
Disheartened tears when told ‘piss off and die’.
Myself, I guzzled vodka while in bed
And dreamed of the next rich git I would rob.