Competition

Spectator competition winners: lives in three limericks

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3240, you were invited to tell the life story of a well-known figure in three limericks.

In the excellent How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry, E.O. Parrott summed up the charms of the form neatly:

With a shape of its own it’s imbued –
That’s the limerick, witty or lewd;
Two lines, then you oughter
Have two more, much shorter
Then one longer that’s funny or rude.


Though there was wit aplenty in the entry, you there was little appetite for bawdiness. Brian Murdoch, Sylvia Fairley, Frank Upton, Carolyn Beckingham and David Silverman earn honourable mentions.

The prize winners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 each.

A young poet and man about town
Earns bon mot virtuoso renown,
Aesthetic, ironic
And self-made iconic
As philosopher/dandy/wit/clown.

Comic plays win him fortune and fame,
Make his British lit pantheon name.
Then a Lord with whose boy
He’s shared dare-not-speak joy
Wins a bout, and his life’s not the same.

He does gaol time for sexual crimes
(Blameless acts in more civilised times),
Then self-exiles in France
To conclude the romance
With harsh truth in lush rhythms and rhymes.
Chris O’Carroll/Oscar Wilde

William Shakespeare’s the bard of our nation,
With his plays a poetic sensation;
In his sonnets of fire
He had power to inspire
And his words are a timeless quotation.

He performed in the age of Queen Bess
And for James his Macbeth meant success.
With the force of his pen
He was monarch of men
And his craft never failed to impress.

He made comedy when he was dead
For his wife got his second-best bed;
And a tragic surprise
Is, where lifeless he lies,
Like poor Yorick he’s minus his head.
Frank McDonald/Shakespeare

Born in London, this lad was no fool,
He was tutored at Oswestry School.
Of brains not deprived
At Oxford he thrived
And, as warden at New College, ruled.

With a wife and five children to raise
He taught for the rest of his days,
But being befuddled
His words he’d get muddled
And call foggy days, ‘doggy fays’.

It’s a tragedy one of the best
Should be famed as a figure of jest
And sadly this saint,
Who was clever though quaint,
Was at Grasmere at last ‘raid to lest’!
Alan Millard/William Archibald Spooner

Salute to the great Enid Blyton!
Though never a lit’r’ry titan,
Her books, on the boil and
From Kirrin to Toyland,
Entertained where they didn’t enlighten.

At Newnes, funny tales filled her head;
And she wed her commissioning ed.
Their daughters were later
Both banned from their Pater,
For she moved in a new Dad instead.

She bombarded the world’s under-twelves
With fairies and pixies and elves,
With the picnicking frolics
Of ginger-beer-holics.
(These were banned from the library shelves.)
Bill Greenwell/Enid Blyton

The Tories chose Heath with great care
As something more ‘vin ordinaire’
Than their normal tradition
Of vintage patrician
With privilege rather than flair.

But apart from his music and yacht
It was unclear what talents he’d got;
While his famed three-day week
Plumbed new levels of bleak
And saw Britain’s prosperity shot.

Then Thatcher derailed his career
Thus causing much Tory good cheer
Though his petulant hulk
Sat on in a sulk
In the Commons for year after year.
Martin Parker/Edward Heath

His comfortable bourgeois nativity
Had somehow instilled a proclivity
For clever critiquing
Of anything reeking
Of common commercial activity.

While flaying with lifelong legerity
The wealthy, he shared the prosperity
That Engels inherited,
Albeit unmerited,
But otherwise lived in austerity.

He found the free money sublime,
And savoured it while there was time;
His readers, he reckoned,
Perhaps any second
Might deem it a Kapital crime.
Alex Steelsmith/Karl Marx

No. 3243: lost and found

You are invited to submit a poem about the discovery of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance. Please email entries of up to 16 lines words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 30 March.

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