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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,

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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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Show comments
  • cromwell

    “Spectator competition: invent a meaningless proverb”
    “The latest competition, in which you were invited to compose a poem”
    What is it to be? a proverb or a poem? pray tell. Some proverbs, or perhaps folk sayings from my home town in Cumbria;
    If urchins be running, foxes be coming.
    If thou makes a bad pasty sterks u’ll turn nasty.
    When’t moor hawk doth glide, twill set tup on’t side.
    Whats me prize?

    • Kitty MLB

      I Believe both a poem and proverb was required, the proverb
      being the next challenge.Lucy started the poetry competitions over Easter. What will be your prize.
      Pray tell us Cromwell, sir what would you require?
      The head of Charles, the Prince of Wales will be in hiding
      From this very moment.

  • evad666

    As honest as an MP’s expense claim.

  • evad666

    Remember Your Vote Counts.

  • evad666

    Cartel Political Parties ensure Democracy.

  • evad666

    As Democratic as an EU Commissioner.

  • Kitty MLB

    Many hands make a big horse

    • Kitty MLB

      Actions speak louder then words and the action that speaks the loudest
      is shouting.

      • Kitty MLB

        If you can’t see the bright side of life then polish the dull side.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Delay in May
    Find a Spoon in June

  • Michelle Trimborn

    You can’t make a sow’s purse when on your ear.

  • Andy Mcrae

    The sum of all you ever do is equal to all the parts.

  • salieri

    Surely the best one appeared in a New Statesman competition many years ago, combining folk-wisdom, brevity and inanity: “No leg’s too short to reach the ground”.

  • Richard Hall

    WALKING STICKS PAD SAVINGS ACCOUNTS WITH FLATULENCE.

  • Richard Hall

    MELONS ARE NEVER THE SAME WHEN EATEN UNDERWATER

  • Richard Hall

    A CHEESEY MOON, NEVER BRINGS A REWARD TO A DOORKNOB.

  • Richard Hall

    RUSSIAN WINTERS LIVE IN PONDS.

  • Richard Hall

    SMALL BIKES DO NOT EQUAL FOOTBALLERS WIVES.

  • Richard Hall

    EXCEPTIONAL HANDWRITING, TAKES NO TICKETS

  • Richard Hall

    A BIRD WITH A PINK BEAK, DOESNT FIND GOLD IN A BUCKET

    YELLOW RIBBONS WRAP LARGE STONES

    DEAF PIGS HAVE NO TAILS

  • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

    A vote in the post is worth two in the hand.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      A Vote in Post hides who Butters the Toast

  • asalord

    Dave and Ed, they’re neck and neck
    in a race to save utopia.
    Dave and Ed, they’re first to wreck,
    so bye to Caledonia.

    • Kitty MLB

      Well I never. atleast it rhymed and quite amusing.
      Poetry not rhyming is a bugbear of mine, and your fellow
      Scots, our very own braveheart Allymax never seems to
      Be that concerned, but I wish he would, just once.
      Anyway well done, now you have to make up one about
      Salmond and Sturgeon-mindful of the fact that fish is
      never poetic.

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