13 DECEMBER 1968, Page 40

No. 529: The winners

Trevor Grove reports: Competitors were in- vited to compose an octet, using the given rhyme words, on one of the following subjects: the financial crisis, a verse recipe for Christmas, or a complaynt, on the occasion of failing to be elected to the Oxford Chair of Poetry. Though the given words—from Wordsworth's 'Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman': a good guess from Herbert Mayman with Keats's 'A Song About Myself'—were not the obvious choice ingredi- ents for a rhyming recipe, it was disappointing to see so comparatively few attempts at a home- grown version of those delicious, garlic-inspired postcards from Provence . . . Peter Peterson's spirited concoction, 'True Tipsy Cake,' however, proved irresistible: While your oven is cheerfully heating (gas six. electric three eighty) pour in half a tumbler of brandy, and stir till your dough's thick and weighty; and if, overcome by the fumes, and of all self- possession bereft, you knock over the bottle of brandy, tip it up, and drink off what is left.

Now bake for three hours. Then inspect. If by chance things have gone all awry, with the inside a sodden disaster, and the outside all blackened and dry, don't throw it away in a tantrum, but at least make it look a bit merry, by crowning the wretched concoction with an elegant synthetic cherry.

Though it was apparently a shade too early for Christmas, it was evidently not too late for woeful moans on the subject of the great crisis and its pinching aftermath. 'Eighty,' one of the given rhyme-words, inspired several attacks on the long-lived General and sent numerous old- age pensioners hobbling into print; 0. M. Martin, for instance: Though Wilson's promises were weighty Jenkins leaves the old so poor.

To eighteen goes the vote; to eighty Grievance greater than before.

Of age's comfort he's bereft, Pouch empty and decanter dry, And in his purse few coppers left.

Has Wilson's world gone all awry?

... and Dr Sadler, who wins three guineas: As my Grandfather told the Home, one day in eighteen-eighty- My Grandad was a John Bright man, his . speeches pretty weighty— `Great Britain would be beggared if it were of gold bereft: Our credit, our Free Trade would go; no Empire would be left!

In those days dollars, roubles, francs the pound stood proud before; Their consols stayed at over par: the Poor alone were poor. 'Free Trade,' Grandad would say, today, 'those damn Yanks keep awry : They've pegged too low the price of gold: liquidity's run dry.'

But the largest number of entries came, pre- dictably, from those would-be Professors of Poetry who survived the bitching and counter- bitching of this latest undignified campaign. Several W. McGonagalls, of whom the best, Hilary Temple with Yet More Poetic Gems, wins three guineas: 'Twas in the year One Nine Six Eight, my years they numbered eighty; My heart bad grown right leaden, for my cares they were so weighty.

I had grown tired of living by my verse and being poor, And since I never had applied to have a Chair before I marched on Oxford with my friends around me right and left. The other entrants, Sassenachs, of hope appeared bereft. But Scottish mns could not vote, they left me high and dry, And I returned to Glasgow with my laurel wreath awry.

Honourable mentions to Charles Lyall, Chris- topher Clarke and Douglas Hawson ('Mac- Sweeney among the nightingales made merry/ But one bite seemed too few for that ripe cherry", and five guineas each to Eckattl Samson: MAs' votes, more numerous than weighty, Well prove Wilmot's words of sixteen-eighty; Enrich a name, yet leave the post still poor: Now shattered prose mocks poets gone before Fuller the Chair, jejune the verse and dry, And Helicon mourns poets gone awry. Masters of Art; of all their art bereft, Deny the .Muses right, so I am left.

- . . . and Philip Jackson—a complaynt from 'Dr E. S.': Lo, how this conclave, erudite yet poor In spirit, of the Muses' soul bereft, Hath e'en now (as hath happened oft before) Euterpe's votary forsaken left.

If then your fancy be so far awry Magistri Artium, in such matters weighty, If ye prefer this Fuller's Earth so dry, By Heaven! I'll not get there till I'm eigh...