Whilst the following rhyming couplets in no way describe my own experience of encroaching dotage, the verses are my attempt to express a view of the feelings and needs of a ‘grumpy old man’ contemplating his future, isolated by senility from his nearest and dearest.
These thoughts were generated by a re-reading of the madrigal verses, ‘Crabbed age and Youth’, attributed to Shakespeare, coupled with watching again an episode of Victor Meldrew’s character in the TV comedy, ‘One foot in the Grave’.
(On Ageing Disgracefully)
So who can we say will look after us
When we get old and cantankerous?
Can we rely on those near and dear?
Or are we forsaken, alone in our fear?
We who were once so unstinting and kind
Do we not earn at last true peace of mind?
BUT . . .
All is not clear . . . To be truly sincere,
The man I was then is no longer here.
FOR . . .
I’ve changed, and not for the better
I’ve lost it now – down to the letter.
No one can know the way I now feel.
I’ve got the worst of Faust’s done deal.
Bad-tempered with age; rancorous, unkind,
Left, with my youth, all my humour behind.
My bilious mien, my irascible stance
Will never win friends or my nature enhance.
I’m old now and weary and decidedly bent
My spirit and mind to perdition I’ve sent.
Choleric, petty, liverish, sickly,
A curmudgeon, malcontent, surly and prickly.
I’m grumpy, I know, and I’m sad.
I’m thoughtless and tetchy and bad.
I’m full of regret and I hurt,
Bombastic and bitter and curt.
I know when I’m right, but not when I’m wrong,
I know where I live, not where I belong.
Selfish, caustic, hurtful, snide,
This present-day world I cannot abide.
My life is defiled, and I’m full of bile;
A fossilised drone, sterile and vile.
NEVERTHELESS . . .
I need you beside me all the day long.
Don’t tell me you’re tired – I know that you’re wrong.
I remember those vows that we once affirmed
When the future was all that you and I yearned.
But I’m near to the end, so I’m taking a bow,
Who once was your soul-mate Is only a shell now.
The love that once held you so closely to me
Has gone since I’ve grown to be bitchy and gloomy
I know that you don’t want to stay any longer
I’m just in your way now, it’s you who is stronger.
I’d hoped I could ask you to restore my dreams
But time has dealt us its last blow it seems.
SO . . .
I relinquish my hold, and consign all my sorrows
To a life that defeats me – and all our tomorrows.
The illustrations are from the Irish illustrator, Harry Clarke’s, 1921 edition of Goethe’s ‘FAUST’.