Last word

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

In Competition 2806 you were invited to submit alternative endings for well-known novels or poems.
A Farewell to Arms, The Special Edition, gives Hemingway fans the opportunity to look at the 47 alternative endings that he played with before making what was clearly an agonising choice. Some are more blunt, some more optimistic than the one he went with in the end.
This was a popular assignment. The prizewinners, in what was a strong entry, take £25 each. Chris O’Carroll bags the extra fiver. Honourable mentions go to unlucky losers G.M. Davis, Ray Kelley, Lettice Buxton, Philip Machin, Rob Stuart, Frank McDonald and Brian Murdoch.

The Wedding-Guest he looks askance
At the hoar and wordy wight,
And cries, ‘No more, thou grey-beard loon!
For this is a festive night.
‘I’ve rounds to dance and healths to drink.
Thy wild, distempered words
Cannot shift my attention to
Deceased aquatic birds.
‘Nor do I care to hear thee preach
How best to love and pray.
What lesson thou hast learned is thine,
Not mine. Now go thy way.
‘Seek out thy bed, lie down and close
That frightful glittering eye, sir.
And may the morrow morn find thee
Less sad, less mad and wiser.’
Chris O’Carroll/The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’
She was going from him now. In her misery she leaned against him. He was unresponsive.
Where would he go? The darkness pressed against him as he moved towards the lights, lost and helpless, of the town. And his soul felt, at its core, the fecundity of nothingness, as if a seed had been left behind in a wilderness of chaff. In every face, in every expression, there was a strange and luminous void, a drabness, a hopelessness, a distant understanding of extinction.
‘Forest!’ he whispered — ‘Forest!’
Aye, he would not give in. He heard his clogs rapping the paving-stones, felt his whole being  swerve into the crowd that seemed to stream from the ale-houses. Very well, he would be one of them. He would serve, breath steaming, voice like a battered clarion.
‘What dost think?’ said a young lad. ‘Think?’ answered Paul. ‘Derby County? We s’ll thrash ’em.’
Bill Greenwell/Sons and Lovers

‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I
shrieked, upstarting,
Then I paused, beheld him smarting, sensed the
pall of pain he wore,
Saw the stain of deprivation, felt the creature’s
Cried out ‘I’ll make reparation for the sorrows
that you bore.
Take what succour I can offer, stranger at my
chamber door.
Name thee evil? Nevermore.’
Visited by curious feelings, I secured in secret
Berries, carcasses and peelings, pleasures for an
Carelessly I watched him trapping tasty morsels,
feathers flapping,
Little heeded he was crapping on the bust above
my door.
‘Oh what joy you’ve brought,’ I whispered, ‘be my
soul mate, I implore!’
Sighed the Raven ‘Evermore.’
Sylvia Fairley/‘The Raven’

After Terry left I went home and got pally with a fifth of rye. Next morning there was a flyer among the bills and hard-luck mail: ‘Become an accountant, earn $$$$$’. That usually went in the trash, but this time I lit a pill and had a think.
‘Tarzan on a big red scooter’ Menendez had called me. Well, the hell with that. The hell with quixotic Marlowe, nickel-and-dime Marlowe, the man who made your problems his problems, the punchbag for the Bay City cops. Out there were people with friends and families, latest-model autos, pension plans. It was a world as remote to me as the moon, but I felt its appeal like a hunger pain.
‘I filled out the form while coffee brewed. I’d said goodbye to Terry Lennox and now I was saying it to Philip Marlowe, P.I.
Basil Ransome-Davies/The Long Goodbye
But tintinabulation broke my dream;
the maid dissolved in moonlight’s silver ocean
when Alf from Porlock, wheeling alchemy,
confections sugared by sweet sorcery
and magic kin to Kubla’s sinful potion
ensnared my mind. To sea, to see the dome!
cried Alf, gilded all o’er in visionary light
bewitching fancy’s measure: we would float
our cockleshell of wonder to the source
of Alph, we two, and sup the icy course
where sun turns crystal juice, where honey wine
sings strangest anthems to the higher spheres.
Beyond the albatross’s journeyings,
further than frost’s imperious ministry,
so I, with Alf, to Alph, with angel wings
travel, and equal Kubla’s mystery.
D.A. Prince/‘Kubla Khan’
A mess of empty mollusc shells
Reeked in a knee-high mound.
The groaning Carpenter turned green
And writhed upon the ground.
No more on kings and cabbages
The Walrus did expound.
‘O Oysters, you have done us in’,
The Walrus glumly said.
‘Some toxin got the best of us
When on your flesh we fed.’
Then silence fell, which was not odd,
For both of them were dead.
K.M. Smith/‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’

No. 2809: pretentious, moi?

You are invited to submit a letter liberally sprinkled with evidence of an imperfect grasp of foreign languages (up to 150 words). Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 31 July.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments