It's National Poetry Day today, and although I don't write poetry myself, I can always rely on the mighty Independent computer to come up with some inventive lines. This time I have programmed it to bring Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol" up to date by remoulding it to star Jeffrey Archer. Here are a few of the many verses it came up with....
In all the lines of criminals
Who sweated in that gaol,
There stood out one with sunken eyes,
And features ghastly pale,
Who carried round a little sign
Saying, "Author's books for sale".
You would not think, to look at him,
That he had left behind
A trail of victims he had ruined,
Or he had swindled blind,
Or just a warder, out to lunch,
Who afterwards resigned.
A harmless little face it seemed,
With pebble glasses lens,
And yet he must have had some skill
While wielding fountain pens,
To buy a huge, expensive house
In the Cambridge fens.
He walked among the other men
In a shirt from Jermyn Street,
And there were handmade leather shoes
Upon his dainty feet.
Someone more like a gentleman
You could not hope to meet.
And yet I never saw a man
With more pain in his eyes,
With more discomfort in his heart
Or more expensive ties,
Nor did I ever meet a man
Who told such whopping lies.
"Hey, Jeff !" they shouted, as he passed,
"Let's have your autograph !"
And as he signed each lowly scrap,
He gave a bitter laugh
When he thought of signings at Hatchard's
With his fragrant better half.
He walked among the murderers
With a gay and jaunty air
As if his natural habitat
Was somewhere else, not there,
For they were poor and needy men
And he was a millionaire.
He walked among the kidnappers
Looking almost tarty,
And when they said, "Oh, tell us, Jeff,
Why you behave so hearty ?"
He said: "I'm going, and you're not,
To Gillian Shepard's party."
The governor then sent for him
And said it was not right
For him to have a right old time
While others were banged up tight
But Jeffrey only rolled a fag,
And said: "Have you got a light ?"
He walked among the frauds and cons,
And as he passed, they said:
"Just tip us the wink, and pass us the cash,
If you want someone dead."
But he said: "Just give me a limousine
And the London A to Z !"
Oh, Jeffrey worked on his little diary,
Sitting alone in his cell,
And when he'd written reams and reams
He gave the Mail a bell,
Saying he'd got a scoop for them
And hoped that they'd pay well.
The governor sent again for him
And said it was not fit
That he be published in the Mail
And he would not stand for it.
But Jeffrey's only answer was:
"The food in here is s**t".
He walked among us common men
And dreamt of Le Caprice,
Wondering when he would taste again
The poulet basquais de riz,
Accompanied by his lovely wife
And not by the police.
But the thing that came to haunt his mind
And what he feared the most
Was not the food, or the jangling keys,
Or the death threats in the post;
It was the flitting, just out of sight,
Of Monica Coughlan's ghost.