24 OCTOBER 1958, Page 31

Seasonable Operations


The usual prize was offered for a sonnet to Autumn in which the word 'parachute' was to he 'used.

THE great proof of an artist is if he can use the very limitations imposed by the means at his dis- r3sal to create something which without those limitations would have been less noteworthy: witness the triumph over the asymmetrical corners in the Raphaele stanze in Rome, over the uneven site of the Erechtheion, over the confined circle of Syracusan coin. This may seem a far cry from a sonnet on Autumn. but where nearly all the competitors came down, including many of the seasoned veterans, was in just this respect : the word 'parachute' was pushed in and poked in and dragged in and pulled in: few made it a positive contribution to the thought of the sonnet. The outstanding exception was Tristram, who wins the first prize of two and a half guineas, followed by P. M. with one and a half guineas. The origin- 4,14 of M. J. Field's quotations and the frieze- 'Ike quality of Nan Wishart's tattie-lifters earn these two entrants a guinea each.

For the rest, as four sonnets are going to take up a good deal of the available space. I must, Bacon-like, confine myself to 'certain brief notes :

1. It was odd that so many lines in a competi- tion of this standing should fail to scan. 2. Many of the allegories were forced. This does not include the poem by T. G. Waite. 3. I liked the echoes of Charles d'Orldans in Gertrude Pitt's sonnet.

4. And of Milton's sonnet to Mr. Lawrence in several instances, e.g..

Fireside joys and crumpets with my tea.

(H. A. C. Evans.) -though how far we have fallen from the gracious life may be deduced by comparing Milton with Guy Hadley : And tea like Ganges. colour of brown boot.

There goes another shilling in the slot. 5. Nancy Gunter is commended for her sestet. Philomela for two, equally good sonnets,

_ • H. B. McCaskie for the artful twist in the last line. Also Bernard Wake. R. A. McKenzie, Gloria Prince, J. A. Lindon, Audrey L. Laski. Isobel Cumming, Rhoda Tuck Pook, Areas and Anne Lewis-Smith.

And, for a tailpiece : So. Autumn. nuts to you! (B. P. Hatton.) PRIZES ('raismAi4) The Golden Age is gone beyond recall • And broken bottles spike the Garden wall. Adam and Eve arc banned; the world in thrall. Their parachutes were faulty at the Fall.

No more could Icarus fly than could Canute Bar waves: for hotly did the Sun refute His reaching for the airborne attribute. And, as we know, he packed no parachute.

They have no grave. But Autumn is their pull; The mourning trees shed tears; and Earth is mute, In annual mime they have memorial. When grass is flattened by the falling fruit.

Autumn thus points, dismembered-like old Gaul- The fate of those who have no parachute.


An Autumn barrage softens up the Front.

, Great guns have stripped the trees, and rotting fruit

Makes pancake landings. Dropped by parachute Leaf armies do their infiltration stunt, Scatter, and go to earth-or bear the brunt Of firing squads. Soon Winter's icy boot Will stamp them out, below, seed corm and root Prepare a new offensive, and the hunt Be up again, for this vast Underground Movement will force an enemy retreat.

Then liberated hedge and ditch will fling Their vict'ry garlands; there will be a round- Robin, insisting on a plebiscite- And the whole country will declare for Spring!

(IC J. FIELD) Autumn, stand there, on that unpleasant lea. And listen. I have several things to say. First. of the songs of Spring. alt. where were they? Second. thy sister Summer. where went she? Now I have fears that thou may'st cease to be! I dream'd that as I wander'd by the way Thick. sudden snow concealed this sodden clay. Would it be cleanly thus thyself to free?

Thy sisters both baled out. we know not where. Their silver parachutes were never seen. Could Earth show anything much more unfair? Yes, if it happened thou wert just as mean. Still. if thou would'st forbear to give us over, An Indian Summer might us yet recover.


Now heavy droops your burdened sky with cloud Pressed on the Stony fields, the shiver'd trees; Stooped by the drills, their bunch'd skirts at their knees, The tattie-lifters straggle. earthward bowed. Dispersed they go. a sombre-coloured crowd. About the fields, scattered in twos and threes.

Like parachutes nagged by the testy breeze, Dragged on the earth, harsh tamer of the proud! This harvest has no splendour, there's no gold Waved in the sun, no ruddy fruits revealed, Only the lank shaws shrivelled on the cold Damp of the ground; here on the stony field The drab brown pits their hidden gathering hold.

The tank harvest in the brown earth sealed.