This year’s festive challenge, inspired by Hillaire Belloc’s epigrammatic stinger ‘May all my enemies go to hell,/ Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel’, was to compose lines for a Christmas card courtesy of well-known poets.
Poets moved to write Yule-inspired verse include that old killjoy William Topaz McGonagall: ‘The way to respect Christmas time/ Is not by drinking whisky or wine’. And, of course, John Betjeman: ‘And girls in slacks remember Dad,/ And oafish louts remember Mum,/ And sleepless children’s hearts are glad./ And Christmas morning bells say “Come!”…’ JB cropped up a fair amount in the entry, but nobody, alas, chose U.A. Fanthorpe, a poet notable for having sent verses to friends as Christmas cards over many years.
Thank you all, old-timers and newcomers alike, for your terrific entries over the year. There are almost always more worthy winners than space to showcase their brilliance; and there’s rarely the room to commend all those who deserve it. Merry Christmas! The winners take £30 each.
What fields are these, I think I know,
All virgin white and dressed in snow?
What kings are they who move toward
A manger in this Christmas card?
What star is this that throws its light
On Bethlehem, this Christmas night?
What choirs sing in pious skies
Invisible to human eyes?
And there beyond the sparkling snow
The manger spreads its mystic glow
And who would break the magic spell
That radiates Emmanuel?
Dear Christmas card, you take me back
To artless feelings I now lack,
Yet something that is not quite lost
Surveys your scenes and melts the Frost.
Recipient – mark the Contents
Of this folded Cardboard – Screed –
Avowing not what I condone
But what you wish – to read
A Litany – of Platitudes –
Shall here perforce suffice
To hoist the hapless – Harbinger
Of Yuletide Joy – and Peace
Poor Paper Gestures grease – the Wheels
Of pagan Industry –
Deflect us from that awful Truth –
Our Tomb – of Certainty
Doubt not my Insincerity –
Unhope beginneth here –
Planet and Man – despondent both –
Must turn from Year – to Year.
God bless thee all this yuletide
With plenteous ale and meat,
And may thy kinsfolk far and near
Be filled this day with festive cheer
But wise in what they eat.
For one there was who had to bear
A bird slung round his neck,
A soul alone with none to care,
Adrift in weathers foul and fair,
And water, water everywhere
Around that godless deck.
But less of him! His tale must cease.
On thee God lavish joy and peace
By Him who bore the cross,
But, prithee, feast on fattened geese
And spare the albatross!
’Tis Crimble, and the wintrous ways
Are creeping crassly in the blare,
To gumble in the cupious craze
Of fumblous festive fare.
Beware the grimsome grotto-groves,
Leave not your sproglets by themselves
With beardsome Santas, crumpous coves,
And jingling, jumbous elves.
With slouthy songs in shopping malls
On limbal loops, with sundry tat,
The fakesome snow and silver balls
Outgrabed, including vat.
’Tis Crimble and the day is done,
The humbrish hordes that came to stay
Have had their fill of fimbrous fun,
And gone. Hurrah! Hooray!
It’s no go the aftershave, it’s no go Subbuteo,
All I want is a DVD from a pornographic studio.
It’s no go the fairy lights and the visit from the
All I want is a KFC and a book by Jeremy
It’s no go the mistletoe , it’s no go the turkey,
It’s no go the brandy sauce when the
government plays dirty.
It’s no go the football scores and the
All I want is an ounce of hash and a floozie with
The middle classes made their pile, sold their
souls to Jesus,
Sold their future to the banks and puddled in
It’s no go the pony club, it’s no go the lawyer,
All I want is a ration book and some Cold War
Father Christmas parked his sleigh over
Poured himself a Jägerbomb and farted pure
It’s no go the peace on Earth, it’s no go the
All I want is a rusty knife and an artery to open.
Your next challenge is to submit a review by a restaurant critic that is tediously loaded with sexual language. Email entries of up to 150 words by midday on 10 January, please.