The Columnist
  National Poetry Day
Motorway Ballad
  La Monolog Victorienne
  Marmaduke, the White Knight
  Elegie Composee dans un Rural Churchyard
  Clive James
  A Salute to Rabbie Burns
  Oedipus & his mum
  The Ballad of the Middle Laner
  Railway Ballad
  Roman Road
Ballad of Belmarsh Gaol
  The Bishop of Bath & Wells






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....

Ballad of Belmarsh Gaol

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.

The Independent

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