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Spectator competition winners: Dylan Thomas does the ‘Hokey-Cokey’

12 August 2019

11:40 AM

12 August 2019

11:40 AM

Jeff Brechlin’s inspired ‘Hokey-Cokey’ rewritten as a Shakespearean sonnet prompted this week’s invitation, to filter the song through the pen of another well-known writer.

You were on cracking form this week. Here is a taste of Basil Ransome-Davies as Dorothy Parker:

Oh, I have put my left leg in
To join the merry dance,
And I have contemplated sin
With roisterers in pants.

And I have followed with my right,
But sticking to the rules
I’ve spurned many a torrid night
With gallivanting fools…

And George Simmers’s Seamus Heaney:

Put your left leg in then, its heavy boot so caked
with the field’s loam that it’s wide as your father’s.
On second thoughts retract it, then repeat the business,
marking time, marking your opportunity,
keeping possibilities open till the time comes
to shake it, as a terrier might a ferret…

Equally enjoyable were reworkings by D.A. Prince, David Silverman and John O’Byrne of Henry Reed’s ‘Naming of Parts’ (‘Today we have shaking of parts…’) and Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of My Self-Humiliation’, courtesy of Mark McDonnell.

It was difficult to whittle the entry down, but after much hemming and hawing I settled on the six below, who earn £25 each.


Bill Greenwell/John Betjeman
Out on the dance-floor, the clock at ten-twenty,
We dance to a rag-time, or is it a waltz?
My feet are flirtatious, but no cognoscenti,
And I lose the first set, scoring two double faults.

But oh! the conductor! He straightens his baton
And taps out a rhythm that gladdens my thighs,
As we fish with our left arms, and, following pattern,
Retrieve them, and swivel, but never capsize.

Oh hokey, oh cokey, with part-genuflection,
Extending our triceps with vim and abandon!
Now for the right arm, and forward direction,
And back, and so careful there’s no one to stand on.

The left leg and right leg take turns, with a flourish,
Before the whole person hurls forth with a shout,
And now I’ve a partner with needs I must nourish,
For that’s what the dancing is really about.

Alanna Blake/Rudyard Kipling
If you can join a group at merry-making
And lose your inhibitions for a while,
Can dance around and copy all their shaking,
And make each foolish gesture with a smile.
Swing each leg in and out and wildly shake it,
Then do the same odd movements with your arms,
Go wrong, be ridiculed, and simply take it,
And carry on, dismissing all your qualms.

If you can watch your mother let her hair down
And hear the shy and reticent all shout,
Not bother whether this is high- or lowdown
Just clap and yell : ‘That’s what it’s all about!’
If you can sing out ‘rah, rah’, loud and hearty,
Can sound as if you’re really having fun,
Then you have grasped the spirit of the party —
And you’ll have done the Hokey-Cokey, son.

Max Ross/Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight
And do the hokey-cokey. Seize the day!
Barge like a bull before you say goodnight.

Then wave your arms and legs with all your might.
Turn dizzy like a little child at play.
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight.

Shake, shake like mad to put all pain to flight.
Lunge out at life though you are old and grey.
Barge like a bull before you say goodnight.

Just do the hokey-cokey. Show some fight.
That’s what life’s all about the sages say.
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight.

To dance a final dance while still upright
The hokey-cokey is the only way.
Do not go gentle. Drink till you are tight.
Barge like a bull before you say goodnight.

Ann Drysdale/ John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
I can but pass opinion as observer
Upon my fellow-man’s obsessive fervour.
I see him put his left arm in, then out,
Then shake this lesser member all about
Before indulging in a lewd contortion
Better unspecified, out of proportion
To the one-armed extension, which the wight
Again performs, though this time with his right.
And now his legs, each thrust into the middle
And, in between, that strange and secret twiddle
Until, at last, his whole self he entrusts
To the all-powerful Terpsichorean lusts
And I can scarce contain a joyful shout —
This, I contend, is what it’s all about.
This is no reasoned action but a whim
Born of inebriation. Good for him!

Alan Millard/Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so dear and deft as dance —
When, in a ring, folk flock and fleetly fling
First left arms to the fore, then back they bring
These lively limbs, reforming at a glance
A seemly circle ere they all advance
Thrice more to shake and shimmy in the ring,
And chanting, child-like, ‘in-out, in-out’, sing,
While to and fro in wild delight they prance.

What is all this fling and all this flair?
A ritual romp, a friendly frolic, free
From clinging cloud and cloy, concern and care,
Whose crowning ‘ra-ra-ra’ in gladsome glee
And raucous rapture rises like a prayer
To holy Him, the fount of ecstasy.

Nick MacKinnon/Ludwig Wittgenstein
1 The hokey-cokey is all that is the case.
2 The hokey-cokey is the totality of positions, not of things.
3 What is the case — the hokey-cokey — is the existence of the position of things.
3.1 It is not right-ness, leg-ness or whole-self-ness, but in-ness, out-ness and shaken-all-about-ness that is the hokey-cokey.
4 A thought is a picture of the position of things in the hokey-cokey.
5 The world and the hokey-cokey are one.
6 To view the hokey-cokey sub specie eternitatis — to take your whole self out — that is what it means to be mystical.
6.1 That is what it is all about.
7 Whereof we cannot speak we must pass over in silence.

Your next challenge is to submit an acrostic poem about a politician (alive or dead) in which the first letter of each line spells the name of that politician. Email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 21 August.


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