Competition

Spectator competition winners: poems on the death of Prince Philip

8 May 2021

9:00 AM

8 May 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3197, you were invited to supply a poem to mark the death of Prince Philip.

I wondered if anyone, inspired by his touching lines on the death of his beloved Queen Victoria, might channel the poet and tragedian William McGonagall:

Alas! our noble and generous Queen Victoria is dead,
And I hope her soul to Heaven has fled,
To sing and rejoice with saints above,
Where ah is joy, peace, and love.


But you mostly steered clear of forelock-tugging, instead striking a tone closer to that of poet laureate Simon Armitage, whose poem ‘The Patriarchs — An Elegy’ expressly avoided the kowtowing the Duke of Edinburgh hated: ‘I didn’t want the poem to be part of a chorus of sycophancy.’

Honourable mentions, in a medium-sized and wide-ranging entry, go to David Silverman, Michael Jameson, Adrian Fry, Basil Ransome-Davies, David Harris, David Shields and Bob Pringle. The worthy winners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 apiece.

The Chief Defect of Windsor Pip
Was failing to control his Lip,
Or moderate, when with a Guest,
His Thoughts before they were Expressed.
It happened once, when in a Brougham,
A Motor passed him with a Vroom.
He shook his fist, cried What The Eff!
Are you all Blind and Dumb and Deaf?
You’re Mad as (here he named a Tribe
That Scarce deserved his sudden Jibe).
At this he gave a Self-Rebuke,
For he was not a Fiery Duke.
Alas, his Children and their Heirs,
Less circumspect about Affairs,
Grew merely Wrathful when so Spurned,
And soon His Royal House was Burned.
Bill Greenwell

A supporting actor, not the main event,
in time the prince would prove he was miscast
for, at his passing, it was evident
that he was featured, centre stage, at last.

 

In life, condemned to walk two steps behind,
in death he led the way before the Queen,
preceding, too, his warring sons — aligned,
and yet apart, with Peter in between.

 

We heard Eternal Father strong to save,
and what a ‘carry-on’ the pipers piped!
As Philip journeyed to his royal grave
the show was on the road, and media-hyped.

 

So, Masterchef was toast, EastEnders too,
with every channel tuned to mark the day.
What luck that we had nothing else to do
but watch them sending Philip on his way!
Sylvia Fairley

A lifetime spent in line astern
Following the Ship of State;
A marriage with one main concern,
To be the Ship of State’s First Mate;
Though sometimes keeping one step aft
In a separate gaffe-rigged craft
Crewed not by some old naval codger
But Saucy Sue or Jolly Roger,
A light relief which spiced the annals
Of Britain’s diplomatic channels,
But one which never had the force
To blow the Ship of State off course.
Martin Parker

He was handsome, charming smile-Phil, Denmark, Greece exile-Phil,
Mountbatten’s golden boy-Phil, not a fan of fuss,
Duke and never King-Phil, blurt out anything Phil,
sod that ceremony-Phil, never gave a cuss.
Not so touchy-feely Phil, could be cold and steely Phil,
Navy Phil, wartime Phil, walked a step behind,
charity-supporting Phil, active, fun and sporting Phil,
busy, problem-solving Phil, always spoke his mind.
Never suffered dolts-Phil, had his share of faults Phil,
attended countless functions-Phil, his duty to obey,
barbecue-relaxed Phil, temper-often taxed-Phil,
but most of all the Queen’s Phil, her love, her
rock, her stay.
Janine Beacham

By nature fitted to command, control,
He took, for love, a secondary role —
Prince Consort, unofficially defined
As he who stands beside, but walks behind;
But soon, by duty not by duties bound,
He used his rank to open up new ground:
To help young people first he framed a scheme
For learning skills and working as a team;
Then interest in the natural world became
A cause he championed freely with his name.
Although his never tightly-buttoned lip
Would sometimes loose an inappropriate quip,
His speaking out and speaking as he thought
Were not offences in the public court:
What counted there was being true and loyal,
Prized virtues both in everyman and royal.
W.J. Webster

Only you, Sir, could check out
On a stretch Defender Gun Bus
Constructed to your spec by Foley,
Bull-burnished beyond squaddie olive drab
To British Reigning Green.
A masterclass in dignity, your service:
Simplicity via choreography; horse patience.
You bore your sojourn on this temperamental earth
Impeccably: elegant insouciance,
Demanding of life ‘No fuss, no bloody fuss!’
Fondly shall we remember you, Sir: we,
Freeze-framed in peril here on land and sea.
Mike Morrison

No. 3200: canterbury revisited

You are invited to retell one of Chaucer’s tales in the style of another author (please specify). Please email entries of up to 16 lines/150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 19 May.

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