Guest poem sent in by Suresh Ramasubramanian
(Poem #1262) The Carpenter's Son
"Here the hangman stops his cart: Now the best of friends must part. Fare you well, for ill fare I: Live, lads, and I will die. "Oh, at home had I but stayed 'Prenticed to my father's trade, Had I stuck to plane and adze, I had not been lost, my lads. "Then I might have built perhaps Gallows-trees for other chaps, Never dangled on my own, Had I left but ill alone. "Now, you see, they hang me high, And the people passing by Stop to shake their fists and curse; So 'tis come from ill to worse. "Here hang I, and right and left Two poor fellows hang for theft: All the same's the luck we prove, Though the midmost hangs for love. "Comrades all, that stand and gaze, Walk henceforth in other ways; See my neck and save your own: Comrades all, leave ill alone. "Make some day a decent end, Shrewder fellows than your friend. Fare you well, for ill fare I: Live lads, and I will die."
This is from Houseman's collection "A Shropshire Lad" - there are a lot of war poems which are, in their own quiet way, a great deal more satisfying to me than Rupert Brooke's poems, especially because of their biting sarcasm, such as "From Clee to Heaven the Beacon Burns" - >"Oh, God will save her, fear you not: >Be you the men you've been, >Get you the sons your fathers got, >And God will save the Queen." This poem above is ironic, mocking - a carpenter's son reflecting, as he is going to be hanged, how much better it would have been if he had stuck to making gallows trees instead of committing crimes that led to his being forced to sample his own product. He is making a confession of his crimes and a request to his fellow human beings not to be led into a life of crime lest they suffer the same fate as he. Or is he? Is he dying for love of mankind like Jesus did on the cross, between two thieves suffering the same penalty for just and valid reasons? srs [Martin adds] An added irony - nowhere in the poem does it say that the love he is dying for is love of *mankind*. Indeed, if the narrator had not compared his situation to Jesus's, the phrase "hangs for love" would have a readily obvious interpretation.