Olden but golden

14 May 2016

9:00 AM

14 May 2016

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2947 you were asked to submit a poem in praise of old age.

Old age gets a bad rap. Only the other week, in these pages, Stewart Dakers questioned our obsession with chasing longevity given the decrepitude and indignities of that final furlong. Here was your chance to put the case for the defence.

The competition certainly struck a chord, if the size of the postbag — from veterans and newbies alike — is anything to go by. It was a lively and cheering entry, infused with the spirit of the purple-wearing heroine of Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ (‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…’) and a far cry from Larkin’s ‘Old Fools’. There’s no bonus fiver on offer this week, so those printed must be content with £25 apiece.

Those mornings festering in your pit;
Those idle afternoons;
Those dentures with a perfect fit;
Those hours in Wetherspoons…
A whole utopic universe
Unfolds when you are old,
And you may mutter, groan and curse,
But really you’ve struck gold.
To profit from it just behave
As helpless or insane
(For instance, gibber, drool and wave
Your walking stick or cane.)
Senescence is a happy fate;
You never have to rough it.
Manipulate, manipulate,
Like Daleks till you snuff it.
Basil Ransome-Davies
Do not go gentle into that good night.
At least beat up a few before you go.
A Shaolin monk can be a fearsome sight.
White hairs and ageing joints don’t stop the flow.
Years of Kung Fu have helped him do it right,
A little violence gives a youthful glow.
Marquess of Queensberry rules or dirty fight?
Who cares? Who dares will win. Is that not so?
Forget all tolerance, do not take shite.
Kick out against the pricks, put on a show.
Older and wilder that’s my chosen path,
Not Zimmer frames and lifts to take a bath.
Fiona Pitt-Kethley
Olden I may be. Still I’m hale. I like to read the Daily Mail.
It keeps me sharp and up-to-date. It tells me of affairs of state,
And on the state I meditate: I am a wise old fellow.
I potter in a world of prose; grandchildren tell me how it goes.
They drink and disco at the club; I soak for hours in the tub,
Careen my carcass, scrub-a-dub: I am a hale old fellow.
I mutter when I do not shout; in welly boots I splash about;
I walk on rainy afternoons; I dine on cauliflower and prunes,
And never mess my pantaloons: I am a clean old fellow.
A television haruspex; I like the violence, hate the sex;
I comb the Oxfam shops for togs; the country’s going to the dogs,
I chart it all in monologues: I am a stern old fellow.
A world of dew. And yet. And yet a world not easy to forget;
I cannot let it pass me by; I stop and look it in the eye;
And, as you see, I versify: I am a game old fellow.
John Whitworth
No matter what state it is in
after years of indulgence and sin,
though wrinkled and sagging from excess of lagging,
I’m happy at last in my skin.
Of regrets now I have almost none.
It’s a time to relax and have fun,
since I learned in my youth that the Struggle for Truth
I’d been fighting for cannot be won.
I’m at ease with new freedom from lust
for each trimly honed waistline and bust.
And I’m long since resigned every time that I find
that it won’t and I can’t — even just!
And I’ve really no cause to complain,
as my time dribbles on down life’s drain,
since my funeral’s paid for and what death is made for
is starting life over again.
Martin Parker
Saga louts, we hit the towns
With bold tattoos on balding crowns,
Sink seventeen or eighteen rounds
Of scalding tea.
With custom zimmers, sticks and truss,
We cause a loud, unholy fuss
Inside the downstairs of the bus
We ride for free.
With new streaks in our purple rinse,
Exchanging recipes for mince,
Our memories may make you wince
And bitterly.
Our age can be our alibi:
‘A senior moment’, so we lie.
It always works, so don’t you try
To turn your key.
G.S. Roper
I’m bald now, though once I was curly.
I’m old and I’m weak, but not surly.
The source of my cheer?
With each passing year
It’s clear it’s too late to die early.
Robert Schechter

No. 2950: the law is an ass

You are invited to propose a new and ludicrous piece of legislation along with a justification for it (150 words max). Please email entries to by 25 May.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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