Spectator competition winners: ‘And did those tweets…’

13 August 2018 12:58 PM

The latest challenge was to compose an updated version of ‘Jerusalem’ starting with the words ‘And did those tweets…’

One of my favourite parodies of Blake’s poem is by Allan M. Laing. In it he describes the wartime blackouts:

Bring me my torch of waning power!
Bring me my phosphor button bright!
Bring me my stick — O dreadful hour!
That brings the darkness of the night!

Laing was a colossus of literary competitions, who, V.S. Pritchett tells us, ‘has won more first prizes in newspaper competitions than any other man in England. Never has a man enclosed stamped and addressed envelopes for reply with greater effect.’

His 21st-century successors — veterans and newcomers alike — continue to shine and in a crowded and lively field this week honourable mentions go to Nicholas Stone, David Silverman, Brian Murdoch, Ian Barker and Nick Vasey. The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 each.

Adrian Fry
And did those tweets of febrile Trump
Talk of a Brexit hard and clean?
And was the whole Remoaner rump
Still fearful of what Out might mean?
And did the crapulous Walloons
And Germans scoff from far away?
Well, we shall drink in Wetherspoons
Come Corbyn or, indeed, what May.

Bring us our pints of nut-brown ale!
Bring us the bar snacks we desire!
Bring us this day our Daily Mail,
Raising our spirits and our ire.
From Brexit rants we’ll not desist
Control long lost we will take back
We’ll be so drunk in Wetherspoons
That Europe will not want us back.


Paul Carpenter
And did those tweets at voting time
Reach the deplorable and green:
And was the holy Russian bear
In US social media seen?
And did expedience malign,
Cause nascent fears to deepen still?
And was mass bitterness builded here,
Towards that dark satanic Hill?

Bring me the view ‘They’re all corrupt’;
Bring me the fortunes they acquire:
Bring me mistrust: O web erupt!
Bring me a candidate with fire!
He will not cease from mental spleen,
Nor shall his phone sleep in his hand:
Till he has drained Jerusalem,
And made a great, unpleasant land.

Frank McDonald
And did those tweets I heard last night
Cause drowsy numbness and a pain,
Inspiring me to sit and write
An ode about a warbler’s strain?

Fetch me my paper and my pen
And ink to stain the waiting page
That I might fill the world of men
With stanzas to an avian sage.

I will not cease to pour out lines
Nor will my inspiration fail
Until I’ve let my soul’s designs
Immortalise my nightingale.

How favoured am I to have heard
Those heavenly nocturnal tweets!
I’ll eulogise that deathless bird
Or else my name is not John Keats.

George Simmers
And did those tweets in ancient time,
Do much to sway the Brexit poll?
Was Cambridge Analytica
The reason we’re stuck in this hole?
Or was the root of it more deep,
An incoherent bolshiness
That found its outlet in a vote,
So dumped us in this dreadful mess?

We must prepare for Brexit day,
Build up our stockpile of supplies.
Bring me sardines and sacks of rice
Bring me Fray Bentos chicken pies.
For though the vote was ill-informed,
The consequences will be real
As we lurch to dystopia,
The England of a grim no-deal.

W.J. Webster
And did those tweets from early birds,
All free and easy, neat and short,
Deceive us that this simple form
Should frame a pleasant, civil thought?
A vision clouded soon enough,
Its characters made play new roles,
When that first innocence was lost,
Corrupted by satanic trolls.
They hurl their barbs with poisoned tips,
Their threats obscene, their language vile;
Secure in pseudonymity,
They vomit out their boiling bile.
Untrammelled by some sense of shame,
They will not rest or stay their hand
Till they have built Yahoosalem
In England’s green-eyed twitterland.

Max Gutmann
And did those tweets consume the thoughts
Of millions with such brazen ease —
Although produced by twitterbots
(And people with the brains of fleas)?

And did they also cloud the truth
To stoke emotion savagely
And send us to the voting booth
Consumed with animosity?

Can they have led to grievous war?
Did leaders send their troops perhaps
To salve the feelings that grew sore
When threats were tweeted in ALL CAPS?

And had we, really, to endure
So many mindless tweeted words
Before we finally were sure
That tweets are truly for the birds?

Your next challenge is to provide a poem about puns. Extra points will be given for entries that also contain puns. Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 22 August.