Your latest challenge was to recast a famous political speech as a sonnet. Lots of you opted for Elizabeth I’s address to the troops at Tilbury, but James Aske got there first in 1588, the year she gave it, with a verse reworking that appeared in Elizabetha Triumphans, his celebration of the Armada victory.
You were on mischievous form this week and clearly gave careful thought to your choice of speech. The winners, who each pocket £20, are printed below. First up is Ann Drysdale’s version of Cromwell’s dissolution of the rump parliament.
Ann Drysdale/Cromwell’s speech to the Commons, 1653Its time to close the curtain on this farce,Your petty squabblings and your rotten cores.You call yourselves a Parliament? My arse!You’re just a gathering of thieves and whores.You sell your country for your private gain,Betray your God for profit, which is worse.You mercenary wretches can’t remain;You have no more religion than my horse!The nation hates you; you were voted hereTo ease the people’s grievances. This placeHas now become their greatest grievance. ClearThis sacred hall! Remove that stupid Mace!Now take your greedy noses from the trough —In God’s name, lock the doors and bugger off!
Sylvia Fairley/Queen Elizabeth I, Tilbury, 1588My loving people, though I have been warnedTo shun the crowds, for trouble may befall,You’ll find it is advice that I have scorned,I plan to dice with death beside you all.A woman’s weak, they say; I’ll play my part,Let me assure the troops that I’ve got ballsAnd, in the midst of war, I have the heartAnd stomach of a king when duty calls.I’ll cheer you on, while shouting ‘All aboard!’And launch the greatest victory of my reign,We’ll overpower this wild, Hispanic hordeAnd free our country from the threat of Spain.If any prince of Europe should invadeWe’ll fight — take back control — we’re not afraid!
George Simmers/Gettysburg Address, 1863Our fathers eighty-seven years agoConceived a nation where all men were freeAnd proudly equal. Can such nations, though,Endure? This civil struggle’s set to beThe test of that; of this great field of warWe dedicate this portion as a grave,Though it’s already consecrated moreBy those who here fought hard and died, thebrave.Our words will be forgot; their deeds will not,And must remind us — challenges remain.To meet these with resolve is our proud lot;If we’re to prove these men died not in vain,The form of government we proudly cherishOf, by and for the people must not perish.
Fergus Cullen/Burke’s address to the electors of Bristol, 1774If statecraft were a thing of will or might,Th’electors’ will should be supreme, I own;But ’tis, or should be, Wisdom’s realm alone,Who not from general will receives her right,Nor writ of law, but from a greater Height:Thus, while my ease and interest I disownIn preference to th’electors’, yet for noneMay I spurn Reason’s Providential light.In Parliament, trustees of East and WestWith care and vigour spend their thought and time;Meanwhile, those minds with party rage obsessed,Whose highest flights reach but the lowest clime,We should despise, as you, on Clifton’s crest,Despise the gulls that scud the Avon’s slime.
Martin Parker/Edward VIII’s abdication speech, 1936The cloak of secrecy is drawn asideAnd I can speak my piece across the land.To duty I was born and I have triedTo bear its heavy burden in my hand.Yet Church and State who claim each king their toolDecree that happiness must be deniedTo one who seeks to break tradition’s ruleAnd take as Queen a twice rejected bride.The Crown, they say, must pass. Thus I departThough she I love has begged me to remain.Now as I go I say with all my heartWhile Baldwin turns the page on my brief reign —From kingship’s many arrows and each sling,May God protect my brother, your new King!
Bill Greenwell/Harold Wilson’s devaluation speech, 1967It’s not a secret any longer, chums:By fourteen points, our new devaluation.We couldn’t beat these speculator bums,Nor all who’d try an arm-lock on our nation.You’ve done so much: reduced, and by a quarter,The deficit of thirteen Tory years.The oil sheik and the wildcat dockyard porterHave rubbed in salt. But gamblers, oh my dears…We’ve stuffed their wagers. Imports may be pricy,But what a chance for UK salesmen too:More produce! Jobs to follow! Nothing dicey!Let’s plug our pipes and have a decent brew.It doesn’t mean your pocket or your purseOr bank account will shrink. It’s Britain First!
Alan Millard/Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech, 1990For several hundred times in CabinetWe met, and oft I went the extra mileAttempting, though in vain, to reconcileOur differences, and yet to my regretThe gulf between us only seemed to grow.I tried to share my European dreamBut when I did she’d raise her voice and screamWith ever-growing passion, ‘No! No! No!’This honourable lady, stern but strong,I’ve, loyal to the last, a long time served,But now, bowled out, dispirited, unnerved,I fear I might have stayed, alas, too long.My hopes to score a six have fallen flat —First in, first out! Felled by a broken bat!
In 1969 a competition was set in this magazine inviting poems commemorating man’s first landing on the moon. Your next challenge is to submit verses, in the style of a well-known poet, reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission, 50 years on. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to [email protected] by midday on 9 October.
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