SPECTATOR COMPETITION No. 268 Report by Guy Kendall Many of
us will soon be cut ofi from the outer world by a dense curtain of monotonous green, and we shall not see for six months the delicate tracery of the bare boughs. The usual prize was offered for a Lament for the Departure of Winter in not more titan sixteen lines of verse.
THE subject of this competition was con- ceived at a time when the winter had not Yet reached its final excesses : or who would have ventured to regret its passing? The competitors fell roughly into two classes : (i) what one might call the Crumpeters, who appealed to the example of Cowper, or Thomson, or Rupert Brooke, often with tea in front of blazing log-fires, to support them; and (ii) the tongue-in-cheekers, who disguised their real feelings, often with rather faint praise, though one of them avowed himself 'a mocking liar'; but with all that an astonishing amount of real Poetry turned up-some of it not quite relevant. As to the drawbacks of spring and summer, the wasps and midges in a 'sticky, itchy summer' (Mrs. H. Stuart) were not forgotten, and Leonard S. Shutter asserted still more feelingly that 'The flies and gnats will mobilise and compass our damnation' (he might have added the ants). But it is difficult to believe in the genuineness of 'Now we are awakened by the birds' infer- nal din.' It is, moreover, distressing to know that 'Floreat Hiems' in his rather clever Pastiche associates the coming of summer with atom bombs. An amusing parody of Hiawatha came from B. P. Hatton, who remembered that 'we have moved a little nearer
to the season of the tripper when the lout will leave his litter.'
From an RA mess came a sentiment Which seemed to confirm the allegation that National Service men arc under-employed; for the officer related how in winter Lastly G. J. Blundell had not forgotten the winter sky; he speaks of Frost the artist : 'No more upon the sky's vast wall at night Shall his great masterpiece, Orion, gleam.'
I recommend that the prize be equally divided between W. Bernard Wake, Iris St. Hill Mousley, and Frances Collingwood. Commended are (from a considerable num- ber of about equal merit) L. E. Honnor, Miss L. Fellowes, W. K. Holmes, H. A. C. Evans, Annie Allen, Mabel Parker, Miss D. L. Alison, and, in a rather more modern manner, the poems of the Rev. C. L. S. Linncll, and Kenneth S. Kitchin.
(W. BERNARD WAKE)
Weep for the bitter twilight of the days When sullen storm clouds hemmed us all about, And we had crumpets by the tea-time blaze, With curtains drawn to shut the weather out.
Weep for the pendant drops of silver rain That decked the bare black branches of the trees, Swelling to drop and form and swell again; But we stayed in, relaxed in slippered ease.
Weep for the cosy cold, the days in bed In cosseted and undeserving sloth: (Was 1 a bit inclined to swing the lead Or really ill? Something perhaps of both) Weep for a winter garden at its best When no weed stirred to rouse the sleeping soil. Weep, idle ones, for months of blissful rest, And brace yourselves for summer's aching toil.
(mis ST. HILL MOUSLEY)
The cushioned seat within the concert hall Is but a memory. I sit instead My evenings now are filled with sterner stuff, Pushing the groaning mower through the rough, Digging and raking, sowing this or that.
My favourite radio programme goes unheard, For I, exposed to the cold April breeze, Must wind black thread across the starting peas Cursing in silence every blasted bird.
The hearty weeds upspringing after rain Mock cheerfully my grim and sweating toil. O for the frozen path, the barren soil! O happy, happy winter, come again
Season of snugness, of crumpets and toast, Dispensing the comforts one cherishes most; With milk never sour and an absence of flies, A world full of beauty for those who have eyes. So tidy the earth, so Spartan the air; Within arc the blessings, remembered and rare: In wallowing summer all nature is seen Through a rank vegetation offensively green. What with over-fed thrushes and over-blown ferns One's senses are sated wherever one turns. No etching of patterns in outlines of trees, Just blankets of verdure is all that one sees. So pooh-bah to summer with toiling and sweat, It sure is the season I'd soonest forget!