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Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition: invent a meaningless proverb

17 May 2014

9:30 AM

17 May 2014

9:30 AM

The latest competition, in which you were invited to compose a poem celebrating a famous duo, produced a colourful cast of pairings. Ray Kelley sang the praises of Flanders and Swann: ‘Never was there a sweeter fit/ of wit to melody, melody to wit’. Brian Allgar proposed a toast to that gruesome twosome Burke and Hare. And Martin Parker saluted south London kings of retail Arding and Hobbs: ‘Posh Knightsbridge had Harrods for nabobs and nobs./ The folks down at Clapham had Arding and Hobbs.’

Hugh King was impressive, as were Michael Swan and Alanna Blake, but they were edged out by this week’s overall champ, Chris O’Carroll, who takes £35, and his fellow winners, who pocket £30 apiece.

I was sad to hear of the death of Gerard Benson, a frequent winner of this competition over many years. His witty and accomplished contributions will be much missed.

Chris O’Carroll
In Tweedledum and Tweedledee,
Those icons of propinquity,
Those paragons of amity,
We see what brotherhood should be.

Observe their conduct vis-à-vis
A battle. Note that they agree
To fight, but Dum does not harm Dee
Nor get from him an injury.

They speak of felling every tree
In their conflict’s vicinity,
But deal in no un-brotherly
Displays of bellicosity,

[Alt-Text]


And when by serendipity
A crow appears, as one they flee.
Than valiant foes they’d rather be
Harmoniously cowardly.

Bill Greenwell
Peter was tall and talked in a drawl,
His characters expert or haughty,
While Dudley was bubbly and chuckling and
          small
(The piano was known as his forte.)

Pete on the whole was surreal and droll
While Dud, as his stooge, often cracked –
Pete would spin language and Dud would spit
          sandwich:
That was the gist of their act.

Pete stayed at home, and turned into Lord
          Gnome,
While Dud went abroad, as a star —
Although built like a thimble, the sexiest symbol.
Pete felt aggrieved from afar.

As Derek and Clive, they improvised live,
And the filth made them mates. They’d been
          lonely.
But this didn’t last, and as for their past,
The Beeb wiped out most of Not Only…

Frank McDonald
You wrote the very model of a clever comic
          opera
With flighty maids as pretty as the brightest
          Lepidoptera,
And though the plots you plotted were
          appallingly impractical
You won our hearts with arias appealingly
          didactical.
The sun and moon were made to serve in
          sentimental instances,
You gave us tars and gondoliers, three little
          maids and princesses;
Miraculously making much of matters most
          ephemeral
You built a perfect picture of a modern major
          general.
With genius rare and rarer rhymes, with versatile
          vitality,
You brought your characters to life whatever
          their locality,
So may your Mabels ever sing with humorous
          sincerity
To let the best of G and S give pleasure to
          posterity.

Alan Millard
Their music springs fresh as fountain
Or ‘edelweiss’ scenting the air,
They climbed every musical mountain,
This ‘whistle a happy tune’ pair;
Such romance one rarely discovers
In two thrown together by chance,
But, getting to know them, ‘young lovers’,
Enraptured, will sigh, ‘Shall we dance?’
Then, swept off their feet without warning,
Like ‘winters that melt into springs’,
They’ll awake to a ‘beautiful morning’,
And sing of their ‘favourite things’.
For melodies ‘softer than starlight’
That ‘younger than springtime’ shine,
And partners who, coupled, win outright,
It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein!

Francis Harry
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
From your conjoined lives we have much to
          learn.
There’s more than one can take in at a glance
To Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.

The currents of a turbulent romance
Engulf you, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.
Sly eddies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
Toy with the certainties for which you yearn.

The path bewilders us at every turn;
Walk with us, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Partner us, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz;
What steps we know lag just behind the dance.

We move with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz
Through plotted tragedy or happenstance.
Like you, we neither summon nor adjourn
These sessions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Your next challenge is to invent proverbs that sound profound but have no meaning. To give you inspiration, here is one I came across by Bob Scott: ‘The man on the Clapham omnibus will never get to Highgate’. Please email entries (you can submit up to ten each) to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 28 May.

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