For the latest challenge you were invited to provide a sonnet with the following end rhymes (taken from Milton’s Sonnet 20, ‘Lawrence of virtuous father virtuous son’): son, mire, fire, won, run, re-inspire, attire, spun, choice, rise, voice, air, spare, unwise.
Milton was the most political of poets, and many of you followed his lead.
Elsewhere, Sergey Trukhtanov and Joe Houlihan submitted fine homages to Conan-Doyle, and David Shields, Martin Elster, Jenny Hill and Tim Raikes also stood out. Props to clever John O’Byrne, who made his entry using first lines of Shakespeare sonnets (changing the final word to fit the brief).
The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £20 each.
Milton! you should be called the Muse’s son,
For next to you most poets are in the mire.
With your lost paradise you lit a fire;
What fame from that almighty loss you won!
And now today, when your life’s course has run,
Those rhyming words you chose may re-inspire
As I attempt to give them new attire,
Making fresh garments from the threads you spun.
Blind as I am to you, deprived of choice,
I hope your shade will let my lyrics rise
To heights Miltonic, just as if your voice
Were free to whisper counsel through the air.
I trust, dear Milton, you have thoughts to spare
To motivate the worthless, the unwise.
No milksop this, the Tories’ favourite son
Who, though his faux pas land him in the mire,
He, like the Phoenix, rises from the fire
And from his failures forges victories won.
Like summer, after May her course has run,
New hope he brings to spur and re-inspire,
Re-clothe the Country’s dreary, drab attire
With garments freshly fashioned, deftly spun.
Acclaimed as Britain’s only Rolls-Royce choice
With zip-wire zest he’ll to the challenge rise,
Restore the nation’s erstwhile dithering voice
And boldly sugar’s virtues dare to air.
Yet, knowing that he drives his neighbours spare,
To buy a house next door would seem unwise.
Entitled daughter, son and second son —
Heirs gaily hog-wild in their dire sire’s mire,
Belching weak gusts of alt-right tweetstorm fire
While prizing prizes Kremlin hackers won
For them when Daddy made his tainted run,
Whom pelf and fame inspire and re-inspire,
To market lines of overpriced attire,
E.g., threads wheels of poverty have spun
Where workers’ hands grasp little hope or choice,
Where unions fear to organise and rise,
Where autocrats control the public voice
Such that dissent is never on the air
And barbarism is what cops don’t spare —
To trust in such as these might be unwise.
The Lord of Misrule has an only son
Who thinks that he will shift us from the mire:
Possessed of purely artificial fire,
He claims that, with the ‘mandate’ he’ll have
And in his floral pantaloons, he’ll run
Our country, while his boasts will re-inspire
All loyal subjects. Dressed in fool’s attire,
His cakehole crammed with all the lies he’s spun,
He offers us dog-Latin, very choice,
And school-yard puns that seek to get a rise
From enemies. His chummy, charmless voice
Inflates our ears with overheated air.
Want promises? He’s several, going spare.
To trust a single one would be unwise.
O hail to thee, immortal Thetis’ son,
Born ’neath the sea-nymph’s sub-Aegean mire!
With armour fashioned from Hephaestus’ fire,
To Troy you ventured, myriad battles won,
Then, brooding in your tent till fury’d run
Its course, emerged once more to re-inspire
Brave Greeks in their Attic attack attire,
By sixty Scythian seamstresses soon spun!
When Patroclus, your lieutenant of choice
Is slain, again we see your fury rise,
And all of Ilium notes your careless voice
Echoing in the topless Trojan air:
‘Hath anyone a heel-protector spare?’
The Gods destroy whom first they deem unwise.
The weary, winding road of life, my son,
negotiates a siren-ridden mire
where shortcuts lead to pitfalls filled with fire
and years are milestone skirmishes hard won.
Avoid both downcast trudge and headlong run,
stay safe, stay steady, pause to re-inspire.
Along your route pick suitable attire
for each occasion Destiny hath spun.
Think deeply on your fellow traveller choice.
If others err, let not your anger rise,
maintain an unperturbed and modest voice
and keep a calm and gentlemanly air.
For on this lifelong journey Fate won’t spare
from punishment a man assessed unwise.
The patriarch whispered hoarsely to his son,
‘Keep to the narrow path — avoid the mire
Of fleshly longings, or you’ll face the fire…’
Son nodded. The old man, content he’d won,
Serenely faced the fact his course was run.
Now, with no dad around to re-inspire
Terrified virtue, son, in black attire,
Sat in deep thought awhile. A coin was spun.
It came down heads. Son grinned — the virtuous
It was, then. Well, pure life had helped dad’s rise
To bullying power. Son too will gravely voice
Sage potent nonsense. Yes, a pious air
Will cow his foes, and bring him girls to spare.
Mere wickedness he’ll leave to the unwise.
William McGonagall wrote a poem entitled ‘Beautiful Torquay’. Your next challenge is to submit his poetic response to Magaluf. Please email (wherever possible) entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 7 August.