In Competition No. 2750 you were invited to submit a poem in praise of one of the deadly sins. The challenge was prompted by the following surprising admission by Taki in a High Life column earlier this year: ‘Lust, gluttony, pride, wrath and sloth I am rather proud to be guilty of, especially the first and the last.’ Though lust didn’t get much of a look-in in the entry, you were with Taki on sloth, which, along with gluttony, produced all six winners. Marion Shore and John O’Byrne were on pithy, witty form; commendations also go to Barbara Wilcock Bland, Janet Kenny, Carolyn Thomas-Coxhead and Derek Robinson. The winners get £25 each. Bill Greenwell nabs £30.
A swallow or two doesn’t signify summer,
But a third expands waistlines, allows one to taste
What the poor can’t afford. The paupers are
But someone must wallow. The sin is effaced.
Eating and drinking need nous, call for gumption —
A talent for toasting where others may tipple,
Commitment to permanent over-consumption,
Making rollicking waves, not a nebulous ripple.
The larder is open. The shelving is groaning,
The meat moist and fresh, and the wine full of
Misers may shudder, and, slack-jawed, stand
But do me a favour, the world is to savour —
St Thomas Aquinas was dour about diners,
Though thin as a thread for a miniature button.
But busting my gut is a plus, not a minus:
All praise to the passion, the art of the glutton.
I readily confess that I’m a glutton;
For me, a morning snack’s a leg of mutton.
(Oh, bloody hell! There goes another button.)
There’s no one more devotedly Tex-Mexier,
And while it’s true that thin’s considered sexier,
At least I’ll never die from anorexia.
I don’t go in for vegetable slumming;
The pigs all tremble when they see me coming,
And cows and sheep begin their nervous humming.
For even when I suffer dreadful pains in
My guts, I’m not the kind of chap who reins in
His appetite — but now it’s done my veins in.
You’ll think my gluttony beyond belief:
My last request? A side of roasted beef!
For gluttony, as I consoled my wife,
Has given me a short but happy life.
Who calls my old friend Sloth a deadly sin?
And what strange company I find him in!
When Envy, Wrath or Avarice appears
You may be sure that all will end in tears.
And when the other three indulge their will
It’s always someone else who foots the bill.
But dear old Sloth would never hurt a fly —
He wouldn’t have the energy to try.
And so — I think — Oh, dear, forgive this yawning—
I’ve really had the most exhausting morning —
Where was I now? Oh yes. We Slothmen feel
All human misery is caused by Zeal.
The world would be a far, far better place
If everyone employed a slothful pace.
There, now! This wrangling’s made me quite
I think I’d best retire to bed and rest.
Sloth offers more chance
than you’d think at first glance;
and for me it’s the pick of the medley
which, together with six other sins, make the mix
of the seven all said to be deadly.
The fact of the matter is
sloth charges batteries
to the point where a man can perform
a hell-raising mix of the most sinful six
to degrees in excess of the norm.
And you truly can bet your
last sou if you’ve set your
life’s sights on some sinful variety
that sloth is the King of the sins which can bring
you perdition and real notoriety.
Standing aloof in giant Indolence —
No, make that lying down aloof — I’m loath
To stir myself and undertake the expense
Of mental effort needed to praise Sloth.
But Sloth deserves my praise, though deemed a Sin.
When tempted to take action, I confess
What saves me is that Wordsworth poem wherein
He justifies his own ‘wise passiveness’.
Beatniks who said ‘Make love, not war’ were right:
For whether you defend or you attack
It’s a sheer waste of energy to fight.
(Love’s made, no problem, if you just lie back
And think of Wordsworth.) Names like Apathy,
Inertia, Torpor, Faineance sound too rude
For Sloth like mine, which may spell Accidie
For hustlers, but for me spells Quietude.
Ah, Sloth! Delicious! Where’s the ‘sin’ in that?
I model Sloth’s perfection on the cat
who stretches out (herself, and days) aware
only of downiest cushions, softest chair,
happy that when she’s ready food arrives.
The sun smiles equally on he who strives
and he who idles through the longest day.
No one gets bathed in glory, making hay.
Grasshopper, ant will both (as Aesop knew
but didn’t labour) last the winter through.
Death and his scythe will mow us all, so why
waste precious time on toiling? Instead, try
to cultivate Sloth’s higher forms: if ‘sin’
is lounging by the poolside, let’s begin!
Tell those who question what your idling’s for:
no slothful person ever starts a war.
No. 2753: country music
You are invited to submit a new national anthem for Greece (16 lines max.). Please email entries, where possible, to email@example.com by midday on 27 June.