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The Fall from National Esteem of a Poet Laureate

Not long before he died, Sir John
on prime-time television spoke
a word not in the lexicon
of nicely brought-up English folk.

The viewers were appalled. They knew
that other poets curse and swear
— a godless, socialistic crew —
but not the nation’s teddy bear.

And later in the series, he
made matters worse when he averred
he had not done sufficiently
the act to which the word referred.

Unhappy is the laureate’s lot!
His function is to celebrate
the deed by which we’re all begot
but as performed by heads of state:

I mean, commemorate in rhyme
its prelude at the altar stair;
then, after an appropriate time,
its outcome as a sceptre’s heir.

Worse were Sir John’s official toils;
his by-appointment pen was forced
to brown-nose various junior royals
who married, reproduced, divorced.

Amid this rife fecundity
it’s not surprising he was vexed;
his life, he told us on TV,
had under-served the over-sexed.

Too late to remedy the lack;
a dead-end job, a paltry wage
(a hundred pounds, a butt of sack) —
the f-word was a cry of rage,

however ruefully expressed,
of one who knew the days were gone
when he might hope to be undressed
by tennis girls who turned him on.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by Peter Hetherington