(Poem #716) Warning
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick the flowers in other people's gardens And learn to spit. You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat And eat three pounds of sausages at a go Or only bread and pickle for a week And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes. But now we must have clothes that keep us dry And pay our rent and not swear in the street And set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers. But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
A refreshingly unrepentant poem about growing old... it does offer a wee bit of editorializing on the subject of society's attitude towards the aged (and fixation with appearances), but it's basically just a charming piece of whimsy, and deserves to be appreciated for that and that alone. thomas. PS. I seem to remember "Warning" being voted the most popular post-war poem in England, in some newspaper survey or the other... so that puts it right up there with "Daffodils" and "If" and other perennial favourites. [From the-sublime-to-the-ridiculous dept.] Another, errm, 'poem' attributed to Jenny Joseph has been making the rounds lately: "A Warning from an Old Lady" If I had to live life over I'd try to make more mistakes next time I would relax, I'd limber up I would be sillier than I have been on this trip I know of very few things I would take seriously I would be crazier, I would be less hygienic I would take more chances I would take more trips I would climb more mountains Swim more rivers And watch more sunsets. I would eat more ice cream and less beans I'd pick more daisies -- NOT Jenny Joseph [actually, it's based on an essay by a certain Dan Herold, whoever he is] The above effusion is a typical example of the annoyingly sentimental guff that seems to proliferate on the Internet; needless to say, I consider it almost completely bereft of poetic merit. Nonetheless I find it interesting because of the way Joseph's name has come to be associated with it - interesting because it does echo at least a few of the ideas underlying Joseph's original poem . A fascinating example of symbiotic memes...  while completely missing the point of the latter, of course. And being desperately unfunny to boot. [Links] Pete Davis' "For Jenny Joseph and Anne Davis" offers the point of view of an innocent bystander watching an "An old woman in a beauty parlor / standing on her head, up to her ears / in shampoo, singing Joy To The World "... the final couplet is especially funny: http://www.lavondyss.com/writings/poems/purple.html I don't know who Anne Davis is, though. There are lots of poems about aging on the Minstrels, none of which I can remember right now. You can browse the entire list at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/ [A Very Brief Biography] b 1932. Poet and prose writer. Joseph has been writing since 1961 (her first publication was The Unlooked-for Season, a volume of poetry). In 1974 she won the Cholmondely award for Rose in the Afternoon. Other volumes include: The Thinking Heart (1978) and Beyond Descartes (1983). She also writes for children. -- Bloomsbury Dictionary of English Literature