Competition: Sunday Morning
Competition: Sunday morning
Thursday, 7th October 2010
In Competition No. 2667 you were invited to supply a reflection, in verse, on Sunday morning.
In Competition No. 2667 you were invited to supply a reflection, in verse, on Sunday morning. You split into two camps: some infused with the bleak spirit of Billie Holiday’s ‘Gloomy Sunday’ (‘Gloomy is Sunday with shadows I spend it all, / My heart and I have decided to end it all’); others full of the joys of lie-ins, an ocean of colour supplements, bacon and eggs, and Sunday worship. It was Wallace Stevens’s meditation that inspired this challenge, and Basil Ransome-Davies’s response to it earns him the bonus fiver. His fellow winners get £25.
I read it first in trancelike puzzlement.
Each word was clear, emphatic, but the sum —
the linkages, the upshot, the intent —
resisted, struck my comprehension dumb.
One element was solid: mastery,
the lyric conjoined to the technical,
the supple, plastic specificity,
the haunting logic, terse, subliminal.
Years later, at a lovely woman’s wake
(‘She died with her tan on’ her self-epitaph),
thinking what Stevens’ tropes or statements make
Of death, I found the drunken strength to laugh –
and thanked America, the home of hope.
‘Death is the mother of beauty’, that’s for sure;
let metaphysics stay beyond our scope.
No thought could be less morbid or obscure.
Dawn’s rosy fingers touch my cheek
And pluck the veil of sleep away:
Before me breaks a fresh, new day,
The fallow groundwork of the week.
Free from weekday cares and chores
And Saturday’s frenetic pace,
It’s time to use this breathing space,
And leave the sleepers to their snores.
Off before breakfast, up on the Down,
Going barefoot for the feel of the dew,
The day and the air both magically new,
Away from the house and the street and the town.
Ah, Sunday morning’s lovely ease,
Which liberates the fettered soul!
Though I prefer now, on the whole,
The waking, wishful dreams it frees.
When Sunday laws would force the stores to close,
it didn’t mean we had to fill a pew;
few acts, in fact, excelled compelled repose
on duvet-covered mornings, entre-nous.
But Sabbath regulations worked too well,
as folks like us preferred to stay abed,
and church attendance regularly fell,
till services, like shops, were fairly dead.
So Caesar rendered unto Mammon Sunday,
and now, for all we know, each store’s a-buzz.
We may be tempted out to see it, one day,
though Sundays we’re still staying in, because
observance laws have honed our sales resistance:
as we’ve forsaken church and being blessed,
we now forgo the sales and sales assistants—
but damned if we’ll renounce a day of rest.
Up at five, a boot-sale wallah,
Flogging bargains, half-a-dollar,
Three LPs, an Eton collar;
And at eleven, melancholy,
With the oodle, dosh or lolly,
Fill the supermarket trolley;
At two, the pace is faintly hotter,
Cardboard, glass, and other grot are
Driven to the licensed totter;
Home at four, to grout the tiling,
Sort the shed, and finish filing,
Cut the list I’ve been compiling:
All in all, when I’ve undressed,
I know that we are truly blessed
That Sunday is the day of rest.
Dad wears a suit for worshipping,
Mum wears a silly hat,
But, when it’s time to stand and sing,
They belt out hymns like anything.
This is the Church of Christ the King.
I like the sound of that.
But Christ the Sufferer is less
Convenient to my mind.
I suffer too, and I confess
My Christian charity’s a mess.
My enemies I cannot bless,
When they are so unkind.
O Gentle Jesus, hear my prayer.
They drive me up the wall,
They make me piss my underwear,
I need to kill them all.
I’ve done a damn sight less this week
Than the Lord that first one;
If His day was the best earned rest,
Mine looks like the worst one.
I work a City job; my brow
Is seldom dewed with sweat.
Still, when it comes to leisure, I’ll
Seize all that I can get.
I’ll sip dark, hot imported brew
And puzzle cruciverbally,
Although to earn this ease I did
Sweet f.a., no hyperbole.
All we who likewise laze conspire
To frame a genteel fraud:
One day a week, we get to claim
We work as hard as God.