ICSE English Short Stories Summary The Prize Poem P.G. Wodehouse

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The Prize Poem
P.G Wodehouse
The story of The Prize Poem is mainly about the choice of the best poem out of the poems submitted by the members of the Sixth Form of St. Austin’s College. The winner, the writer of the best poem, is given the prize at the annual function. This competition is required by the will left by a certain rich man before his death.
A rich and ill-natured (misanthropic=hater of mankind) man had a scheme to eternalise his memory after his death. Hence, he left a will in which he reserved a portion of his personal income to be spent on an annual prize to be given to the writer of the best poem. The condition was that the poem had to be written only by the members of the Sixth Form of St.Austin’s College. This convention was preserved for a period of twenty seven long years. The story tells how the practice was dropped.

As usual, as in every year, the Headmaster announced the annual competition with the subject being ‘An Ode to the College’. Three members Smith, Montgomery and Morrison submitted their poems for the competition. The manner in which they got hold of the poem is very interesting and amusing. Smith visited
Reynolds of the Remove at one remove brought about the change in the obligatory contest. Reynolds was in the infirmary getting better after an attack of German measles. His friend Smith visited him in the infirmary. Smith told Reynolds about the topic of the prize poem ‘An Ode to the College’. Reynolds who had made many fruitless efforts at publishing verses immediately got involved in the venture.
Reynolds sat down to write the poem. He wrote the first four lines on a piece of paper and later wrote four lines. But soon crossed them. He cloned the first four lines in another paper. He again copied the lines he had written, with small alterations on a third paper with the title ‘An Ode to the College’
Soon Mrs.. Lee, the infirmary in charge, came into Reynolds with tea. When she entered she opened wide and the papers took flight in the breeze and fell on the grass outside. He disregarded the flutter and did not recover the papers as he remembered all that he had written. Later, in the afternoon, Montgomery, another student of the Sixth Form got one of the papers in which Reynolds had written his poem. He was elated and used it for the competition after adding up some lines of his own.
Two days later, Evans’ Morison’s friend, got from the field the second sheet of paper of Reynolds. He merrily gave it to Morison who had asked him for such help earlier. Morison too chose to use the lines for the competition. On the following Sunday, Smith visited Reynolds’ conceded that he could write only four lines but they would be adequate for presenting the entry.
All the entries for the competition were sent to Mr.Wells for appraisal. He wrote in his letter, that only the entry of Rogers was good and that funnily enough, three other boys had entries having the identical four lines.
The Headmaster called the three boys who were involved. From their assertions, he deduced that each got the four lines severally. They said that they sought this unjust method because the entry to the competition was mandatory and they could not write poems at all. The headmaster then accomplished the herculean task of stopping this convention of the Prize Poem Competition for the Sixth Form of St.Austin’s College by making the stipulation voluntary.


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