Wednesday, 7 April 2010


“The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.” – Oscar Wilde

I was reading a friend’s blog today and she mentioned in one of her posts how she was considered by people around her as “old” while she herself never thought of herself as “old”. I am getting to the stage now where I think of myself as beginning the down hill ride to where old age resides. And how quickly one may tumble down that hill, especially as one nears the final few stretches to the bottom. The greatest surprise of all perhaps is all the while one is growing old, one is still feeling young. What a shock that can be if one is buoyant and bursting with youthful enthusiasm and verve, if one is laughing and thinking young and then, wham! One inadvertently gazes into a mirror and who on earth is that …old person staring back?

Perhaps the most disheartening part of growing old is the loss of one’s youthful dreams. The loss of the illusions, the fantasies, the ideals of youth is a shocking realisation. Whether this loss has occurred despite ourselves, whether it has occurred as consequence of our life’s vicissitudes, or whether we have done it voluntarily, it hardly matters. What matters is the hopelessness of that awareness, which truly ushers in a very rapid senescence.

This poem I wrote several years ago when I discovered that a good school friend had “progressed” in the world and had “fallen into” a very good position in the public service, had “married well” into a family of influence and “enjoyed the good life”… When I met him after many years I could hardly recognise him but unfortunately we had nothing to talk about as we had no longer anything in common.

The Ballad of the Grand Bureaucrat

And so I got tired of talking of the moon,
The flowers, the flying birds, the blue skies above.
Princes on white chargers live only in fairy tales,
Together with Beauty, the elves and trolls.

The years have passed by and I no longer fantasise,
No more accept my mind’s creations without thought.
I grew older, and all my boyhood dreams died,
While my tender heart was still young…

Now everything I see, with cool logic I view,
Before I speak I think all things through.
The world’s a liar, a relentless, cruel, unjust master
Who will crush you if you don’t think as he does.

I exchanged my innocent childish hopes
With facts, inhuman numbers, hard calculations.
A marriage by proxy, the bride’s dowry rich,
As a result, all at the office call me “Sir”…

And if sometimes the tie chokes me,
I rarely remember my childhood fables,
And in the realm of my office, I quickly forget
All babyish nonsense and the make-believe.

I reign, I order, I command, I’m the man in charge
Everyone trembles when I raise my voice.
A public servant and bureaucrat though I be,
The public is ill-served by me.

The rules and protocol, laws, regulations I know off by heart,
And only if one oils my wheels will I do what I should…
The whole world’s a sinking ship with rotting timbers,
Who am I to start stopping the hulk’s holes?

It’s only in the darkness of my bed in blackest night
That I often wake in fright –
My childhood’s lovely pastel-coloured dreams haunt me
But now torture me as nightmares unrelenting…

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday. Visit her blog for more poetry!


  1. What a sad way for your friendship to end, Nic. I had a similar experience where a friend from the past contacted me after she married a millionaire and she had changed so much I hated what she had turned into.
    I am only as young as I feel and I always feel young!!!!
    Sad poem.

  2. 與其爭取不可能得到的東西,不如善自珍惜運用自己所擁有的........................................

  3. This is wry and wise poem that was prompted by an experience that most of us share. How people change with time... How WE change with time...
    I have met schoolfriends again after many years and have found that I share nothing with anymore.
    It is our nature to change, but I hope that I am changing for the better as I age!