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Spectator competition winners: Laureates past on the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

11 February 2018

9:30 AM

11 February 2018

9:30 AM

The latest challenge asked for a poem written by a poet laureate present or past on the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The role of laureate is not for everyone. Craig Raine once said to Ted Hughes, during a discussion of the then-vacant post, ‘Of course, no one in their right mind would really want it.’ (‘You’d get some terrific fishing,’ Hughes responded.) And Andrew Motion — who was in the hot seat for ten years and was much mocked for the rap he wrote to mark Prince William’s 21st birthday — was candid about its pitfalls: ‘How was I to steer an appropriate course between familiarity (which would seem presumptuous) and sycophancy (which would seem absurd)?’

You strode into the minefield with gusto, and there was much to admire in a largish and vigorous entry. Frank Osen and A.H. Harker both took inspiration from Tennyson’s ‘The May Queen’, and I much enjoyed George Simmers’s waspish twist on Masefield’s ‘Cargoes’. The winners take £25 each.

Chris O’Carroll/William Wordsworth
Bliss is it in this dawn to be alive,
When love so touching in its majesty
And common truth can brighten every eye
That every downcast spirit might revive.
This couple shows how two true hearts contrive
To transcend caste, tribe and geography.
We feel a brave tomorrow drawing nigh
As unity and difference gladly thrive.
Dull would he be of soul who felt no joy
When gazing on this new iconic pair,
This much applauded girl and highborn boy
Whose romance is a gift all souls may share.
When elements diverse as these alloy,
Earth has not anything to show more fair.

Brian Murdoch/John Betjeman
Meghan Markle, Meghan Markle,
What a welcome royal mate!
You’ve given us a rhyme for ‘sparkle’,
A joy for any Laureate!

Better still, the prince you marry
Will provide another rhyme
When you tie the knot with Harry,
Ah, what poetry sublime!

I’m sure Her Maj., the groom’s grandmother
Will see you as a force for good;
From one soap opera to another
You’ll bring a touch of Hollywood.

Of late the feeling in our Nation
Has been cold and lost and drear.
We need a royal celebration!
How nice to line the streets and cheer!

Sylvia Fairley/John Dryden
Thou golden prince, no longer profligate,
The vagaries of youth now set aside;
Abandoning thy solitary state
Hast sought on foreign shores a comely bride.

Fate summons, thou hast reached thy princely prime
And she, cognisant with the thespian skills,
May fill the royal mould; perchance o’er time
Be blest with issue as are Kate and Wills.

Can she survive the Windsor dynasty,
This star celestial, perchance replace,
With dignity, another deity,
The fair Diana, goddess of the chase?

Thy union blest with due solemnity,
Received with public zeal, thou can’st repay
The nation’s loyalty, should thou decree
Through all the realm a national holiday.

Basil Ransome-Davies/Alfred Austin
Rise, patriotic hearts! Let proud eyes sparkle
At nature’s boon of loveliness, Miss Markle.
Pallid she may not be, but in her veins
Run rich and various ancestral strains.
Once wed already, granted, yet her state
Must be regarded as inviolate,
As chaste as is the dawn that spreads with light
The dewy pastures drowned in shade by night
And cleans with moral purpose everything,
Abundant with renewal, like the Spring.
As for Prince Harry, what churl would deny
His manly virtues who has seen him fly
Beneath the whirling blades, faint-hearted not,
This paragon by royal loins begot,
Already a commander of renown
And fifth in line to wear the British crown. 

Max Gutmann/Alfred, Lord Tennyson
When Harry first announced his choice
And asked the nation to rejoice,
A noble lady rose to voice
  A fear for Camelot.
‘To taint our culture is a sin.
It’s not the colour of her skin,
But — really! — an Amurikin?’
  Asked Lady Whoozeegot.

‘Divorced? An actress?’ Bold, unhushed
She railed, then paused and faltered, crushed,
For other ladies deeply blushed.
  How changed was Camelot!
Her questioning she set aside.
‘She’ll make a truly lovely bride!’
She didn’t sound the least bit snide,
  The Lady Whoozeegot.

Brian Allgar/Thomas Shadwell
Drabs and dullards, go away,
For this is Harry’s wedding day
(And that, of course, of Meghan Markle).
I shall laud, with odes monarchal,
Meg and Harry’s wedding day.

(Were Dryden here, no doubt he’d say
‘Shadwellian tautology!’
But who’s the Poet Laureate? Me!
And frankly, I don’t care a fig
For what he thinks, that stuffy prig.)

Returning to the matter prime,
I’m here to celebrate in rhyme
The day that — let my poem sparkle! —
Harry marries Meghan Markle.
None shall mar this happy day,
So, drabs and dullards, go away!

Your next challenge is to take a song by Abba or the Beatles (please specify) and rewrite the lyrics as a sonnet. Email entries to by midday on 21 February, please.

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