In Competition No. 2988 you were invited to compose a poem making the case for a national commemoration day for a person or thing of your choice.
While Alanna Blake championed the dandelion, there were also impassioned calls for days that high-five Thomas Crapper, Doris Day and the tent. I, for one, would happily celebrate a Tom Waits day with Adrian Fry. The winners below take £25 each. Bill Greenwell pockets £30.
Bring us the day of the dodo,
The day of the passenger pigeon,
That their memories never corrode, oh
Let’s cheer them, and more than a smidgen:
Let’s praise those whose very long luck
Receded to zilch and to zippo:=
The quagga, the Amsterdam duck,
The bluebuck, the tiny dwarf hippo,
The great auk they killed on St Kilda,
The red rail, and slim Wimmer’s shrew,
All dead for a ducat, a guilder,
Like the broad-faced and pale potoroo.
Though the gracile opossum’s extinct,
Let us sift our remembrance’s urn:
All creatures’ misfortunes are linked —
Don’t forget. It could soon be our turn.
Please let there be just once a year
A day when gods have vanished,
When things are seen as they appear
And heaven has been banished.
And on that day let every bell
Be tolled for US alone,
A day we wish each other well
And ghosts of gods have gone.
Then let us praise the minds of those
Who burned in cause of science,
The heretics whose conscience chose
A statement of defiance.
And if they must let people pray
That in the years to be
Not one, but every single day,
Will come as heaven free.
We burn Guy Fawkes on bonfire night
Because he hatched a plot.
Yet many think that he was right
(Though many others not.)
So let us choose to burn instead
A chap, we won’t say who,
That everyone thinks better dead,
Except his motley crew.
A scarecrow we will stuff with straw
To represent this person,
Since nobody, in peace or war,
Could prove to be a worse ’un,
And we will execrate the same,
Who sold his soul for cash,
Giving his body to the flame,
Till it be turned to ash.
Two centuries ago the birth occurred
Of one whom we must really not forget.
London would be a single steaming word
But for Sir Joseph William Bazalgette.
Kings, politicians, matter not a bit,
Nor all celebrities of newer age.
London would be up to its neck in it
But for Joe’s great Victorian sewerage.
On Bazal-Day, then, each convenience
Must make their services completely free,
And save a grateful populace expense,
Where one pee can cost up to 50p.
So here’s the declaration of intent:
We need a special day for Bazalgette,
Who did his best to shift the excrement
Through sewage systems which are working yet.
This day is called the Feast of Tony Blair.
He that outlives this day and holds his seat
Will stand a-blushing when this day is named
And blench him at the name of Tony Blair.
He that shall vote this day and live t’old age
Will yearly on the vigil dodge his neighbours
And say, ‘Tomorrow is not Tony Blair’s?’
Then will he duck the Press and hide his part
And say, ‘These deeds I did on Blair’s orders.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with apologies,
What flights he fled that day. Then shall these names,
As soft soap in his mouth as household brands —
Tony the Mad, Bradshaw of Exeter,
Jack Straw and Amos, Hoon and Reid the cur —
Be in their guilty cups, rarely remembered.
Let’s remember the ‘bigoted woman’;
who put Gordon Brown in his place,
harangued him on policy issues
and left him with egg on his face.
We’ll treasure that unguarded moment
when Gordon, revealing his views,
was broadcast in full to the nation
in time for the six o’clock news.
And the woman from Rochdale declaring
the man in the street has a voice
and that no one’s immune from a roasting —
an occasion for all to rejoice!
So let’s mark the encounter with bunting,
hold rallies and sing a reprise
to honour the ‘bigoted woman’
who brought the PM to his knees.
No. 2991: these foolish things
The BBC once marked April Fool’s Day with a report on the Today programme that evidence had emerged that Shakespeare was French. You are invited to submit an April Fool disguised as a serious news feature that contains a startling revelation about a well-known literary figure, alive or dead. Please email entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 22 March.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.