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There was a sprightly entry, with some punchy endings, for this opportunity to hang nocturnal thoughts on the pegs of three possible first lines from Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. They ranged from hedgehogs and cats to a too-gloomy-to-print second entry from John Wood on the state of a mad world, while Alan Millichip pondered an escape to space fom it. I. V. Neversere and Daniel Galef obviously inhabit different parts of that world, the latter remarking, My windows open to the autumn night,/Here come the bugs—ah, shite. Mention must also be made of the furthest out offering, in this case from Judith Green, apparently bedded down under a camelopard rather than a coverlet. It emerged that the Golden Treasury (1956) version of the Auden was the 96 line 16 stanza original of 1933-34  whereas contributors seemed to know the later 50s revision of 72 lines and 12 stanzas under a different title. Anyway, with thanks to all who took part, below, in no particular order, are the results of the judge’s late August lucubrations.  

Julia Griffin: Out On The Lawn

Out on the lawn I lie in bed
Yes, this is what the Poet said,
That honour to our nation..
But why not have the bed indoors?
Some lover’s tiff?  A case of snores?
Another explanation:
Out on the lawn I lie in bed:
I’ve locked both house and garden shed,
Misplacing every key
These lines would hardly earn a cordon   
Among the works of Wystan Auden;
They’re pretty par for me.

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Mike Mesterton-Gibbons: Beyond My Window

Beyond my window in the night are but
Expanses of fresh grass that builders eye.
You're told it's green-belt, but there is no glut
Of housing, so commitments to deny
New permits ring quite hollow when I wake,
Disturbed from sleep at 2am by sounds
Machines that dig new house foundations make.
Yet when I jump from bed to scan the grounds
With torchlight and binocs, all I can see
Is meadowland. My efforts to resume
Nocturnal slumber fail: I'm sure to be
Dug out of it again by thunk, or boom,
Or clank . . .  Must I believe no building site
Was there, beyond my window in the night?

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I. V. Neversere: Dark Outlook

My windows open to the autumn night –
But why no moths attracted to the light?

Are pesticides to blame, a globe that warms,
For total absence of their former swarms?

Owls missing, too, their melancholy hoots
Once overture to sleep and brain-reboots?

Small difference, these days, if kept shut tight,
No windows open to the autumn night.

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Daniel Galef: Beyond My Window

Beyond my window in the night
The wide world sighs itself to sleep.
Out in the meadow, petals shut.
The shepherd counts his sleepy sheep.
The bristly bear is snoring.

But – hear! – as loud as dynamite,
gay music through my windowpanes
and laughter, as a gleaming glut
pours out from bottles to the strains
of revellers in roaring.

In here, however, honey light
invites the eyes to lightly snooze.
A cup of tea, some toast, thick-cut,
the homely hearth, the Evening News
Good God, am I this boring?

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Brian Allgar: Night Thoughts 

Out on the lawn I lie in bed,
Adjacent to the garden shed.
You find it strange? Let me explain
Why I lie here in wind and rain.
It happened several years ago
When married life became so-so;
Although our lives were full and rich,
I felt a kind of nagging itch.
My wife came home too early; there,
She caught me bonking the au pair,
And ran out to the garden shed
To grab a spade and bash my head.
Our roses have a glossy sheen;
They’re finer than they’ve ever been.
I’m in the flower-bed, you see,
Composting where she buried me.

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John Wood: A Damp Night 

Out on the lawn I lie in bed
(Michael Fish had earlier said
It would be dry and clear).
The street lights go off fairly late
So just an hour or two to wait 
Till moon and stars appear.

At ten fifteen it starts to rain 
Making it harder to attain
That pensive frame of mind.
Vainly I try to picture all
Earth's dwellers on whose bedclothes fall 
Showers of a similar kind.

Having failed in this respect 
I turn, like Auden, to reflect 
On lions and world affairs:
Concluding that the threat of war,
Though pressing, need not matter more 
Than one man's soggy cares.

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Peggy Verrall: Beyond My Window

Beyond my window in the night,
A sudden noise gave me a fright.
Much startled, I put on the light
And wondered maybe if I might
Check lest my cat be in a fight.

More noise! 
I went.
And what a sight!
Two hedgehogs hugging in delight!

Alas, my presence caused their flight,
Beyond my window in the night.

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Bill Holloway: Night Thoughts

Beyond my window in the night 
my cat is lost, but that's all right – 
he often hits the tiles at ten 
and wanders back in God knows when.
And is he sorry? Huh – no chance! 
Full of feline insouciance, 
he languidly inspects his bowl. 
"What, duck? Again? Have you no soul?"

How do I know that he is lost? 
At quite excruciating cost, 
I bought a tracker for his collar, 
tired of going out to holler:
"Come on, Jake, don’t be a clown!" 
(He has a girlfriend three doors down)
I check the tracker. Sigh aloud.
He's on the 66 to Stroud.

Two cats sitting upright side by side.