10 OCTOBER 1998, Page 68


Bloody Sunday


IN COMPETITION NO. 2054 you were invited to write a poem on the words, 'Hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity!', using them as either the first or last line. The exclamation, which sounds as if it was Baudelaire in translation, actually comes from Saul Bellow's Augie March. Sunday, though a common enough theme in autobiographies of childhood, is a rare subject for poetry. In his poem 'Sunday' George Herbert rhapsodises over the blessed Sabbath. In 'Piano' D.H. Lawrence fondly recalls 'hymns in the cosy parlour'. By the time of MacNeice the mood has changed: `Man's heart expands to tinker with his car/ For this is Sunday morning, Fate's great bazaar.' Larkin should have written a poem on it, but he never did. I remember an essay by the atheist J.B.S. Haldane querulously complaining that the sound of Sabbath bell-ringing disturbed his morning peace. I remember my father telling me that the only two books he was allowed to read on Sunday were the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress. I remember. . . . The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each. Commendations to Paul Griffin and 0. Banfield. The winner of The Macallan The Malt Scotch whisky is Paul Brummell with a surprise item.

The vicar baptised him Ezekiel Sunday.

Never a self-doubter, he knew he'd make it one day.

He could have been good, but he felt he would be greater If he chose as his career the life of a dictator. He went to army training school, learnt to lead, swear, shoot; Wed the General's daughter, rich but not a beaut.

She had been a happy girl, but soon he made her sad: This cheered him up immensely — he had proved he could be bad.

He went into politics, started rigging votes: Everyone elected him — dead people, babies, goats.

He was soon selected to be Minister for Health, Whose budget boosted nicely his growing private wealth.

Unlikely deaths around him meant new power was now at hand; Ezekiel was chosen to be leader of the land. Parliament is closed, the press a mouthpiece for his vanity: Hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity!

(Paul Brummell) Hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity!

Designed to foster universal sloth, A day of inhibition and profanity, A source of spleen or ennui, or of both, A most unwelcome gift of Christianity Which pagan countries do quite well without, A cause of pain in circles of mundanity And disillusionment in the devout.

Saith the preacher (don't we know it!), 'All is vanity, And there is no new thing under the sun.'

From the pulpit such things, uttered with urbanity, Are not a spur to get anything done.

Imposing it by law is sheer insanity, A violation of our human right, And preaching of its virtues mere inanity.

The devil take this periodic blight! (John Harvey) 'Hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity! Doldrum-deep, dismal, a dampening day, Aeons of family tedium, family inanity, End of the weekend, a curtain of grey.'

Thus spake my father, a grumpy old blitherer Stuck in the past like a fossil in stone, Yesterday's man, a nostalgia-prone ditherer, Never content till he's having a moan.

Doesn't he know we've abolished theology? Sundays are now Continental in style. Do as you please is the new ideology. The Sabbath's now hailed with a wave and a smile.

Watch BSkyB, have a drink, buy begonias, Shop in the mall or drive out for a meal. Nothing's forbidden and nothing's erroneous. Sunday's not hell — it's a generous deal.

(Basil Ransome-Davies) Hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity!

Reject, my friends, this vile inheritance of Judaism and Christianity, and change your leisurewear for working pants.

What though a feeble deity felt flaked out after a mere six days' creative work? He had to pause to get his ashes raked out and so decreed a shameful day of shirk.

Surely this cannot mean a man should fear, when straining brain or carrying a hod, to work hard on each day of every year and prove himself a better man than God?

Does man too need a day of sloth to play with, to roll in leisure and suchlike inanity?

No! Join me in one mighty shout: `Away with hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity!'

(Hugh Munro) The room's strange from this angle,

but I don't often dangle

from chandeliers on Sunday.

I was hoping for a fun day, but it's turned out really boring 'cos bloody Jim is snoring.

So, as he lies there prone, I swing up here alone, totally bereft of sanity.

Hideous Sunday, enemy of humanity!

(Rosemary Fisher)