Magazine article The Spectator

Will Power

Magazine article The Spectator

Will Power

Article excerpt

In Competition 2641 you were invited to submit an adaptation by W.S. Gilbert of a scene or a soliloquy from Shakespeare.

It is quite a challenge to match Gilbert's wit and metrical mastery, but that did not put you off - this was an extremely popular competition. The entry was more than twice the usual size and of a stellar standard, so honourable mentions all round. G.M. Davis, Frank Osen and Penelope Mackie came especially close to making the final cut. Long Gilbertian lines mean that space is short, so I'll step aside for the winners, printed below, who get £30. The bonus fiver is Bill Greenwell's.

If she had died next Friday I'd have had the time

to cherish her

But monarchs grow laconic when a consort is a


I could have sung a requiem, rhetorical, imperial.

Instead it's immaterial to sound a note funereal.

I'm bound to find tomorrow and tomorrow and

tomorrow dull

For thinking of the future is unutterably sorrowful -

The ticking of the minutes in particular's despicable.

It only makes one sensible of when the bucket's


Life is like a lighted wick whenever one is puffing it

And I am just another fool who'll very soon be

snuffing it.

We're understudies, clubs of subs, who have one

shot at standing in;

We clutch the cards from Equity we're certain to

be handing in

Your story may seem glorious, by lightning and

by thunder led:

It turns into a drama that's been drafted by a


You hope you are contenders, and that you may

be a trialist:

But never mind the nincompoops, you'll wind up

as a nihilist.

Bill Greenwell

It goes round in my head: am I better off dead, is

the game for a Dane worth the candle?

Suppose I should chuck it and just kick the bucket,

would that be the act of a vandal?

Is it better to go with the devils you know, though

they give you one hell of a buffet,

And continue to try with a 'never say die', or to

tell them succinctly to stuff it?

For, as everyone knows, Death is merely a doze

and the dozer is calm as a Saint, so

The sleep is quite seamless and painless and

dreamless, except that it possibly ain't so.

Yes, the storm and the strife of an average life

may be something you don't really much like,

With the going and getting and grunting and

sweating and bearing of fardels and suchlike,

But whatever comes after the tears and the

laughter (though laughter was never my pigeon)

You just didn't oughter submit to self-slaughter

forbidden by Christian religion. …

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