2 MAY 1992, Page 44

( 11 ,3 V, R L 0 o e





Song of myself


PIJD_EllIGHLAND MALT 11,1H WHINNY In Competition No. 1725 you were asked for a poem with this title in the style of any well-known poet, living or dead.

I'm sorry I had to hustle you this week, but I'm off on a short holiday to Tenby. It was there, surprisingly, and not in an Arab or Greek town, that the man was born who invented our mathematical symbol for minus. Minus marks were what those of you got who interpreted the 'self' as yours rather than the poet's! Much as I love Whitman's Song of Myself (I have asked

for the last stanza to be read at my funeral), he was inordinately fond of the first person singular, which is why Chester- ton's parody begins: Me clairvoyant,

Me conscious of you, old camarado,

Needing no telescope, lorgnette, field-glass, opera-glass, myopic pince-nez, Me piercing two thousand years with eye naked and not ashamed . . .

Nobody offered a Whitman. The prizewinners, printed below, earn £16 each. Would F. Fox please send his or her address so that the money can be sent?

G. M. Hopkins Myself I speak and spell, selved, self-confessed, Heart hidden, unleaved, fleeceshorn, shed, ah, shed To windwithwintering chill, I sing, lamb-bled, Grandeur and God in me, in man, instressed! Hampstead and Highgate reared, High Oxford pressed Me into service, manleyness inbred, Unmanned this Newmademan or maidenhead, Fused, forced, enslaved, enfranchised me, blood-blessed!

Wales weathered me; Dublin devoured, wrought wrack,

Bookburning, bleeding rose-red on leaf-green Lancashire loveliness of fells: what feast, Jest, eucharist shed am I for, jokejack Me: rhythm-sprung, self-sung, self-wrung be-

tween Two selves, two souls, priest-poet, poet-priest?

(Robert Roberts) Thomas Hardy

I am the one the vain cock pheasant

And his two wives Think fund their lives.

I dig their ground, My tilth's their dust-bath, while ashes, found, They take as preen-aid, just one more present.

1 am usurped. They seem to say, 'That barbecue

Wasn't for you.'

And woodpeckers drill, At cricket stump holes take their insect fill, Commensally using my time-shared day.

(F. Fox) Lord Byron Youth's a mistake, philosophers aver, And I agree with them, in all sincerity: In my own 'salad days' I caused a stir, Provoking moralists to some asperity And casting on my name, no doubt, a slur That ruined my repute with all posterity. In truth, my character's an odd dichotomy Which is, perhaps, why England grew too hot for me.

But now, in Italy, I've found my métier,

Escaped my past, espoused dull middle age (For want of finding any new wife prettier) And entered, too, a new poetic stage That will, I hope, John Murray, greatly better ye, And set the Laker poets in a rage.

No more Romantic heroes, tears and pathos: I'll plump for Juan, satire, wit and bathos!

(Geoffrey Riley) Emily Dickinson My spidery self Spins out sheer fame - Left on the shelf I stake my claim.

Critical gents May test each strand - I weave immense Designs by hand.

Praising austerity This modest stuff Invites Posterity To tall my bluff. (Janet Smith) A. E. Housman Perhaps that early failure Produced a useful grain. At all events, I never Had to he warned again.

From first youth and forever One thing remained the same: I always looked for trouble And trouble always came.

With stoic air well practised I faced succeeding wastes. A steadfast unbeliever, I kept my high-church tastes.

Yet once or twice it happened That some small thing went right.

Both friend and foe now envy My long and peaceful night.

(M. R. Macintyre)