The latest challenge asked you to compose a poem beginning with the last line of any well-known poem and ending with its first line, the new poem being on a different subject from the original.
This was a wildly popular comp, which elicited a witty and wide-ranging entry. The effort of extracting six winners from such a palmary bunch meant that I felt more than usually sorry for those who narrowly missed out. Step forward and take a bow, Paul Freeman, Jan Snook, Joseph Conlon, D.A. Prince and James Bench-Capon, who used both ends of the Divine Comedy for a poem about the hell of traffic jams.
The winners below, chosen only after much humming and hawing, earn £30 each.
I am the captain of my soul:
Scant comfort when I’m six feet under
Inside a crude and loamy hole.
Has someone slipped up here, I wonder?
I thought that I would hob and nob
With angels, all their wings aquiver,
But I lie, stripped of pulse and throb,
Inside some plywood, doomed to shiver.
My soul, it seems, won’t rise or fall,
But lodge here with my last remains,
Observing thus the free-for-all
As maggots chew my senseless brains.
I am condemned. I have no shape.
I rule my soul, eternally —
But that won’t let me once escape
Out of the night that covers me.
In England’s green and pleasant land
When Saxon monarchs held the throne,
Poor Ethelred could hardly stand
Through corns, a bunion, nails ingrown
And, worst, a giant plantar wart.
This feckless king let no one touch
His thus tormented soles. His court,
Their consternation roused by such
A danger to his rule, called in
A blacksmith, who at once set to
With clipper, rasp and fossick-pin.
The king, though bound and gagged, soon knew
Relief from pain and, much impressed
By this display of skill sublime
Ennobled him who served him best
And did those feet in ancient time.
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Is that the sort of claim a sound mind makes?
We’re both aware our shared mortality
Is not inclined to cut us any breaks.
We add the zest, the whoop-dee-doo, but life
Itself must be some other giver’s gift.
How long one husband dallies with one wife
Both souls can’t know, so splurging feels like thrift.
I’ll keep on trying to say what goes unsaid.
Your loveliness outruns all metaphor.
The frantic, mellow magic of your bed
Is more than any one trope could explore.
Pray your love’s truth help my words find their way.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
The frolic architecture of the snow
Captures imagination. Children run
Into their garden where white phantoms blow
Flakes for their artistry. A sleepy sun
Withholds its warmth, but they ignore the chill,
Creating silent Adams. Through the day
They build and mould their men with native skill
Till darkness comes and banishes their play.
Then late at bedroom windows wondering eyes
Observe the artwork in the moonlight’s spell,
And watch the snowmen shed their white disguise
As mystic life enters each icy shell.
‘Let there be life!’ the constellations cry,
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky.
Silent, upon a peak in Darien,
There lie the corpses of a broken dream;
New Caledonia won’t rise again,
Half Scotland’s savings vanished in that scheme.
Unfortunate. But was it really wise
To trust a paradise no one had seen,
To venture all upon a wild surmise?
It’s not ill-luck: it’s where I, Greed, have been.
What next? I blew a bubble full of gain:
A trade monopoly in the South Sea —
Except there was no trade because of Spain —
And thousands were reduced to penury.
So now, who to entice to get rich quick?
‘I’ve been, sir, where there’s precious wealth
(Louisiana’s swamps should do the trick;)
‘Much have I travelled in the realms of gold…’
‘Begin afresh, afresh, afresh,’
I am instructed by my muse
Who often does not let me choose
But holds me in a metric mesh.
So many times she’s made me stop
Despite a fairly decent start;
She doesn’t have the kindest heart.
How can one give one’s muse the chop?
I’m old, I try to write on death;
She steers me off that fatal line.
I turn from those dark words of mine,
Collect my thoughts and catch my breath.
Then I’ll accept another brief,
I will apostrophise the Spring:
The busy birds are on the wing,
The trees are coming into leaf.
The Lady of Shalott
despised the folk of Camelot
who’d sent the unctuous Lancelot
to try to wheedle and beguile her
into letting them defile her
views of barley and of rye
by building wind-farms close nearby
to power the lights of Camelot.
She left her web, she left her loom,
she fired her shotgun from her room.
And, though she missed Sir Lancelot,
two years in jail was what she got.
During which, we hear it told,
they redeveloped all her wold.
Now turbines sixty metres high
on either side the river lie.
Your next challenge is to submit a poem about a bromance. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 16 May.