25 OCTOBER 1997, Page 74




j U RA



Tennysonian mode


IN COMPETITION NO. 2005, reading `bar' for 'barge' in Tennyson's well-known line, and Arthur not necessarily being the King, you were invited to continue in blank verse.

One of your Arthurs was Conan Doyle, another was Scargill, most were seasoned topers in the local. But there were other bars offered, 'the bar of history', and Tim Hopkins's unexpected crossbar:

I'll sit up here in protest through the game, For goalkeepers are different ...

Tennyson himself was a first-class drinker. Sitting down to lunch alone at the Cock Tavern, Fleet Street, he orders the head waiter to 'fetch a pint of port' (see that charming poem, 'Will Waterproofs Lyrical Monologue'). One wonders how many readers have misinterpreted his famous farewell lines: 'And may there be no moaning at the bar/When I put out to sea.'

The winners, printed below, get £25 each, and the bottle of Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch whisky goes to Michael Walters. Thank you all for a splendid entry.

Then slowly answered Arthur from the bar: 'The way I look at it, I mean, depends, Dunnit?' And this was so, but we'd have more, And much we begged he'd amplify, discourse More widely on the theme, He swigged and swore. 'I mean, let's face it, this is it.' And 'Innit?' Followed, the clinching thrust. 'Faarn 'ell, I'm tired.'

'Just keep it down, please, Arthur; ladies here,' And 'Ladies?' was the incredulous riposte, With added matter, incoherent some, Though warmly urged, on Tottenham's late reverse.

It stands', he sighed, 'to reason. Faarn ' But Reg Turned from the optics: 'Arthur, that'll do. Now finish up and go.' The ladies trilled, 'Faarn nuisance. 'Ave a long, long kip: But he, Two digits raised, slow answered, 'I'll be back.' (Michael Walters) Then slowly answered Arthur from the bar: 'I blame the parents. They're the ones I blame. When we were kids, we couldn't prance around In grubby T-shirts pinching traffic cones They're using them as goalposts down the park. Are those your cones?' I said to one young lad. He gawped at me and then said, 'Wicked, gramps.' What can you do? Mind you, they say it's down To diet, all those crisps and fizzy drinks. Not that my tea was really cordong blue I'm telling you, the cheese was just like soap, No taste at all. Still, lucky, I suppose, To have some cheese when half the cows are mad.

Gone quiet, eh, Jim? When I first came in, It seemed quite lively. Hope you make a go. I tell you what, I'll have a half of mild.'

(Chris Tingley) Then slowly answered Arthur from the bar: You can't go home just yet, the night is young. It's barely half past ten. Aren't you my friend? All right, what kind of friend is it that leaves A pal to drink alone? So, same again? You've had enough? We'll change your order then: The same for me and tonic for my friend. The old order changeth, eh? That's Tennyson, Did him at school. My, those were happy days.

Pythagoras as well, I knew it all.

But then it all went wrong: this rotten job, The kids all gone, and now the wife clears off.'

And all night long the noise of prattle rolled Until his tearful head began to droop And sank down gently to the counter-top And on the beer the wailing died away.

(Noel Petty) Then slowly answered Arthur from the bar, Selecting words with alcoholic care: 'No one can call me parsimonious, I Purchased the last round — or the one before And so it's not my turn. You realise That wealthy bastard — pardon me - O'Rourke,

Who'd buy and sell us and have thousands left, Has slyly gone, announcing he was off To take a leak just when our glasses were Emptying fast. Now I'm not prejudiced I'll take on any man who says I am But those bog Irish never pay their way. Has that one ever bought a drink for you? Think carefully. How often has he scrounged On us poor willing fools? Ah, Paddy . thanks, A double whisky. Here's to you, O'Rourke.'

(Manna Blake) Then slowly answered Arthur from the bar: 'Another small one, since you do insist, But should we not at this auspicious hour Unveil yon screen, to truly ascertain Which tokens, falling from that turning sphere, May promise fortune for a lucky few, And check the choices we have boldly made?' At which the landlord deftly pressed a switch, And, flooding through the room, the light shone forth Revealing mystic maidens who declaimed Six numbers blazoned on six wondrous balls. Then spoke, astonished, Arthur once again: 'Dispense to all the potions they desire, For Camelot has favoured me this night Beyond my secret dreams of avarice.'

(Basil Highton)