COMPETITION 47: First Lines

House name sign MANDERLEY 

You were asked for entries based on the first line of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca or Thomas Hardy’s poem When I set out for Lyonesse. There were several explicit responses to the Manderley theme, most directly in Susan Jarvis Bryant's Who the hell is Rebecca? as well as glances at Lyonesse and exotic places such as Nunavut (pronounced Nunavit) and Mandalay, and more everyday ones like Hackensack, Coventry and Stephen Kingsnorth's Exeter. Below, in no particular order, are those that survived the judge’s scrutiny on this occasion, with thanks to all those who took part.

Blue and white gloved pointing hand.. Old ceramic street sign. N.B. Among the winners is an envelope-pusher in the shape of one Ed Shacklee, who submitted an entry of twenty lines. Of course, he should be ostracised, hooted at and generally vilified and castigated for this rubric-bending . . . but it occurred to the adjudicator that the traditional 16 line limit is a feature of such venues as The Spectator, The Oldie, and, formerly, The New Statesman. Why should the new elastic digital medium observe the constraints of the column-constricted printed page? So, in the spirit of seasonal goodwill, the inscrutable Lupine authorities have decided to relax the sixteen lines maximum length allowance in future, unless specified otherwise. However, do bear in mind what brevity is the soul of and resist the urge to produce epics. Brief outbursts will continue to be as highly regarded as longer effusions. Competition 48, in fact, calls for compression rather than expansion.

Alex Steelsmith: To Hackensack and Back

When I set out for Hackensack
a hundred miles away,
I wished I drove a Cadillac
and not a Chevrolet.

When I arrived in Hackensack
I learned that Siri lied.
She led me off the beaten track
and then my Chevy died.

And there, while stuck in Hackensack,
behind a pile of trash,
I found, among some bric-a-brac,
a million dollars cash.

When I came back from Hackensack
that sunny day in May,
I drove a brand-new Cadillac
and not a Chevrolet.

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Gail White: When I set out for Lyonesse

When I set out for Lyonesse
My route was anybody’s guess.
I fancied first that it would be
Along the coast of Brittany,
But finding not a single trace,
Concluded Cornwall was the place.
I next explored the Irish shore
But found I was deceived once more.

O disappointment, bitter gall!
There is no Lyonesse at all!
A misty myth is all it is –
Atlantis with a touch of fizz –
And so, without a backward glance
At Iseult’s fairy-tale romance,
I sit at home, and after tea
Play Wagner on a DVD.

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Karen Petersen: Kipling’s Remorse

(For the men who died in the Burma campaigns
of 1885-1887 and 1887-1889)

Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay again.
The temple bells and spicy smells were in the air
as the rosy dawn shone over the maidens fair
reminding me now of so long ago, back when.

On the road to Mandalay, past fields and cattle,
where the sleepy farmers lay, there was a young girl
who shyly waved, with a curtsy and a twirl
knowing we were going too soon off to battle.

Knowing we boys were just cogs in a machine
who might never see her or Mandalay again
she stood there, a misty dream from the plain
a wraith she was indeed, our fates had been foreseen.

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Ed Shacklee: I Dreamt I Went to Manderley Again

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,
and sought romantic answers in that manse beside the fen,
and found a haunting lady in a house of haunted men.
I rang. The ancient butler scarcely breathed a neutral greeting,
then tottered down those halls I knew, still plagued by spotty heating,
then up and up a spiral staircase until, turning right,
he showed me to a cobwebbed room and droned a dry good night.
I tiptoed to the lumpy curtained bed without a light,
and there, forlorn – so wracked and worn from promises unkept –
I lay me down and, dreaming still of Manderley, I slept;
and as I tossed in fitful sleep in Manderley, I heard
the fluttering of my wretched heart or of a gothic bird.
Rebecca’s ghost appeared: she seared my soul without a word,
her burning, brilliant eyes still moist, her auburn hair unkempt,
and while we dallied in the manse of Manderley, I dreamt
that I was young and wide awake, and she, more than alive,
a dewy beauty waiting for her true love to arrive –
who wasn’t me, it turned out, once again; and thus at five
I woke a foolish man to find I’d slept upon a book,
perhaps Daphne du Maurier’s "Rebecca." Care to look?

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Joanna Bird: OMGodiva

Last night I dreamt I went to Coventry again:
A nightmare, as I found myself au naturel,
In public view, and riding bareback in the rain.
Anxiety dreams are absolutely living hell.

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Julia Griffin:The Road To Manderley

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,
And took a stroll with Daphne, dodging burnt debris.
The night before I had a dormez-vous with Jane,
And snuck with her between the shades of Pemberley.
The midnight tour I did with Shirley round Hill House
Was quite exhausting, but I guess you sleep and learn;
At Satis House with Charles I’m sure I saw a mouse.
At Bly with Henry I had quite a nasty turn.
But Blandings was delightful, as I said to Plum,
And Brideshead too was nice, though Evelyn acted strange
About the postcards (you’d have thought they’d offer some!);
I’m sorry, Emily: I fancied Thrushcross Grange.
Oh God, last week I dreamt I’d go to Elsinore
Again tonight with Will. That’s such a bloody bore!

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D.A. Prince: E. T. Revisited

Last night I dreamt I went to Adlestrop again.
No summer’s heat, no birdsong from afar
and now, of course, no station and no train.
So many negatives. I went by car.

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L. A. Mereoie: Top Of The Toponyms

Last night I dreamt I went to Neopardy again,
A place I thought I’d been, while not sure why or when.

I drove long miles through labyrinthine Devon lanes
Lined with high banks, which tax most satnav-scorners’ brains.

Until. . . odd houses now emerged beside the way . . .
No pub, post-office, church or ‘Cream Teas’ on display?

Well, this was Neopardy, and here I was once more.
Just farms and fields and thatch? What was the trip all for?

Then, after waking up, enlightenment soon came –
A straggling hamlet, yes, but such a splendid name!

Country lane and bridge Neopardy Devon