10 AUGUST 1985, Page 35


Strong medicine


In Competition No. 1381 you were asked for a poem with a message of doom and despair in the manner of Wilhelmina Stitch or Patience Strong.

Just after I set this competition I was told that Patience Strong still murmurs on, brook-like, in the pages of Woman's Own. With a blend of horror and relief I raced to a newsagent and bought the 27 July issue. You can imagine my annoyance when under the title 'I Wish' I found verses that verged on the despairing: 'I wish I could open a window and see — the old world that now is a mere memory — the world as we knew it, where people were kind honest and truthful, to goodness inclined

• . .' It was as shocking as if the Queen had taken a swig of rum during her Christmas broadcast. I opened the next week's issue nervously. Had the old lady cracked up? Not on your life. A jocund, morale- boosting jingle, 'The Whistling Milkman', proclaimed that all was well with the world again.

Stitch and Strong incline to tripping and lilting metres, exact and conventional rhymes, ordinary grammar (apart from the occasional 'poetic' inversion) and a limited vocabulary. Strong disguises the poetry as prose by the use of dashes, as above, but there was no need for you to ape that

quirk. The winners, who get £10 each, are those who convinced me that they were addressing plain folk rather than that peculiar breed, Spectator readers. The bottle of Veuve Clicquot Gold Label 1979 Vintage Champagne (the gift of NERA) goes to 0. Smith.

All life cannot be rosy, Carefree, blithe and gay; The sweetest, loveliest posy Must wither and decay.

There is one common factor Of sickness, pain and age Awaiting every actor Upon life's crowded stage.

Lament not those who languish And perish in their spring; They have escaped the anguish That passing years must bring.

The future is uncertain; Kind fate may intervene And drop the final curtain Before our closing scene. (0. Smith)

We live in really dreadful times as anyone can sec,

And there is nothing Man can do to change his Destiny.

Whichever way we look, the Earth is full of pain and strife To fill our aching hearts with grief until we • tire of Life.

Our children in their thousands turn to violence, drugs and drink While sports grounds are a battlefield for thugs. It makes me think That men who fought and won the War to save our precious Land Must weep to see how hooligans have gained the upper hand, And daily we are made to cry at the distressing sight Of sick and starving Africans — yet cannot ease their plight.

There is no Hope, the World is doomed, which leads me on to say God grant us speedy EXIT. I am joining them, today.

(Mary Ann Moore)

When life seems sad and hard to bear, Just think how almost everywhere, In England and across the sea, Arc people just like you and me

Who suffer every single day And have no time to laugh or play, No food to eat, no drink to drink, And not a hope in Hell, I think, Of any better hope in view, Or finding anything to do Except to sit around and curse As matters go from bad to worse.

All men are slaves and none are free, And this is how it has to be For rich or poor, for Kings or Queens, Until were blown to smithereens.

(John Sweetanan) When skies are grey and have been so For many hours, and well you know That they will soon be blacker yet And you'll get home extremely wet, Try not to get An inner glow.

Depend on it, the witch's curse Will follow you unto the hearse.

You think that you are up the creek - The outlook couldn't be more bleak?

Be sure next week Will be much worse. (I. C. Snell The willows weep at the water's edge, And the seagulls are crying.

The fog creeps down from the mountain ledge, And all the stars are dying.

I find no hope in the world's cold heart, Where love no longer dwells. My friends are ready to depart— I

hear the mourning bells.

Throughout the day there is no light, Just greyness cold as grief.

I'm looking forward to the night: In life there's no relief. (John E. Brown