ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

The Game Is Afoot: Ralph Jones' poetic response to Sherlock's Mark Gatiss

ShortList's Ralph Jones responds to Mark Gatiss' poem with one of his own

The Game Is Afoot: Ralph Jones' poetic response to Sherlock's Mark Gatiss
06 January 2017

Following the New Year’s Day airing of the latest episode of BBC’s Sherlock, The Six Thatchers, the show wasn’t exactly without its detractors. One of those detractors was me: I wrote in The Guardianon Tuesday of my fear that the show, and indeed lead character played by Benedict Cumberbatch, had become too much like James Bond.

By way of retort, the following day writer and actor Mark Gatiss responded with a poem, To an undiscerning criticAs witty and erudite as Mycroft Holmes himself, Gatiss sent the piece into The Guardian’s Letters page.

Needless to say, the ensuing literary beef has since caused quite the stir worldwide, generating headlines on BBC News to Vanity Fair to The New York Times. Here, I repay the kindness with a poem of my own.

‘The Second Letter’

Kind though it was for you to pen a reply,

Swelling with righteousness I think that I

Would like to respond to your words if I may

But only because you so brightened my day.

Alarming, beguiling, it couldn't get better;

Addressing a poem to me in a letter?

Thank you, Mark Gatiss, but let me be frank:

Sadly the content was a big load of

Splendidly written but baffling verse;

Speaking directly now, I will be terse.

Fisticuffs, yes, Sherlock scuffles a bit;

Clearly he's a man who can dish out a hit.

By paragraph four (you can pop back and read it),

I'd said that his muscle is there should he need it.

Holmes is unlike Bond in that he is mortal;

It's difficult not to explode in a chortle

When he lands countless blows on a dude paid to kill.

Simply and plainly: that is way too much skill.

Is there some violence in Conan Doyle's prose?

Of course there is, as I think everyone knows.

So when I beseech that you show some restraint

I really don't mean that the programme be quaint.

I'm saying that Holmes and his love of a mystery

Look terribly close to being BBC history.

Enough on this point though, I think I might bore you.

It’s time I unveiled the code I wrote for you.

Why not go back and check the first part of each line?

Using the title, tell me what you divine.