Competition

Spectator competition winners: ‘O scintillate, bright orb celestial! Gleam’ (‘Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star’)

27 November 2021

9:00 AM

27 November 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3226, you were invited to rewrite, in pompous and prolix style, any well-known simple poem.

The seed for this pleasingly popular challenge was a recasting of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, attributed to John Raymond Carson, which begins: ‘Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific…’ Star performers, in a most excellent and enjoyable entry, include AdrianFry’s Larkin:

Jointly and severally, your begetters rudely discombobulate your psycho-social equilibrium.
Though an unintentional by-product of their actions, it is nevertheless so…


And Janine Beacham’s Williams:

I have succumbed to those purple-sheened orbs, Pomona’s amethyst treats…

Iain Morley and John MacRitchie also shone, but the winners, below, net £25 each.

Oh scintillate, bright orb celestial! Gleam, 
Alpha Centauri C, petite red dwarf! 
Light up our firmament, refracted beam; 
Pulsate till perihelion makes thee morph. 
Hail! Hydrogen and helium art thou? 
An astronomic marvel to mine eyes, 
Coruscating far beyond the Plough, 
Eternal fulguration of the skies. 
Nuclear fusions burst within thy core, 
Thirty trillion miles from my room
A chatoyant, sidereal Koh-i-Noor! 
Up through my radio telescopic zoom, 
Refractive index scintillation saw I — 
It’s all the way from thee, Alpha Centauri! 
David Silverman/‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’

Our ninth month doth thrice ten fair days possess, 
And equal temporal quantity doth bless 
The fourth month too, and of a congruent length 
Is the warm sixth, when the benignant strength 
Of Phoebus blesses all. Note too, November, 
When all sun’s fire is but an ashen ember, 
Is also furnished with days ten times three. 
Yet other months that cycle annually 
Boast one more day, for us to use or waste 
According to our temperaments and taste. 
The exception is that month which is the second, 
Whose days, arcanely, are for ever reckoned 
Scantly at twenty-eight, save in that year 
Which in quaternal rota doth appear, 
Offering a gift both welcome and benign, 
And we can joy in happy twenty-nine. 
George Simmers/‘Thirty Days Hath September’

Illustrious Mary, green-fingered nymph 
Named twice in song like the peerless city 
That lies ever-wakeful, unsleeping, 
On far-flung Americ’s Eastern shore! 
Perverse art thou, disappointing the curious 
Seeking guidance as to how 
Sweet-scented herbaceous borders 
And shady nooks may be conjoined 
To beautify an al fresco domestic plot. 
Who could not feel the pricking darts 
Of jealous Envy as thy silver bells 
And cockle shells, gay companions in bloom, 
Bring to longing optic orbs glimpses of heaven, 
While a line of rosy-cheeked angelic girls, 
Strangers yet to the marriage bed, 
Stand mutely by in rapt attention? 
J.C.H. Mounsey/‘Mary, Mary’

Myristica fragrans? ay, sirrah, but dwarfish; 
With an aureate drupe and an argentine seed, 
Such was my property: runty, a poor fish, 
Infertile, in want of a graft, that it breed. 
The Infanta, my visitant, made its acquaintance — 
Ay, madam, for that were her purpose, design. 
She embarked from Iberia, hastened from Spain hence, 
To ogle its branches, to own them in fine
The costumier’s work on her raiment, apparel, 
(To wit, on her dress) used the deepest vermilion; 
Her hair, sir, was black as an Ottery barrel. 
Was purchase in order? I acted reptilian. 
My tongue bathed in slather, my compliments fluent, 
I riposted, ‘Fair maid, my Penelope Cruz! 
Have my fruit, and my nuts, which are haply pursuant!’ 
And allowed her a graft in return for a schmooze. 
Bill Greenwell/‘I Had a Little Nut Tree’

To men who would their nuptial chalice keep 
Forever with ambrosial nectar filled, 
Ensure their ardours stay as fresh and deep 
As when by love’s first stirrings they were thrilled; 
If they’d be true to their connubial vows, 
Dwell in Elysian bliss by shimmering pools, 
Scale love’s Olympus, lie ’neath golden boughs 
Adorned with luscious fruits, then heed these rules: 
When wives feel wronged do not negate their claim 
Nor challenge it from arrogance or pride 
And, though convinced your spouse should bear the blame, 
Agree that righteousness is on her side. 
Conversely, should she be the one who errs 
But blames you, hold your peace and bite your tongue 
Conceding that the fault is yours, not hers, 
And thereby keep your love for ever young. 
Alan Millard/ ‘A Word to Husbands’

At our encounter, then and there, 
Jennifer at once arose, 
Vacating, as she did, the chair 
Where she’d reclined in still repose. 
Precipitate her rise, and then 
All osculant her lips for me 
As junction happened — where and when 
I did not, for myself, foresee. 
Ah, Time, who plunder as you go, 
Cataloguing all you steal: 
Now in that litany, I trow, 
Must be that moment’s labial seal. 
Impoverished, senescent, ailing, 
I am not what I wish to be, 
But ’tis a bliss o’er else prevailing 
That Jennifer pressed lips with me. 
W.J. Webster/‘Jenny Kiss’d Me’

No. 3229: born again

You are invited to provide the story of the Nativity retold in the style of a well-known author. Please submit up to 150 words/16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 3 December. The early deadline is because of seasonal production schedules.

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