On His Robust and Slatternly Muse

IN THE years when I was younger
I was once a ballad-monger;
Monged my ballads wide world over,
By them lived (though not in clover).
Villanelles and odes and sonnets
Paid for shirts and boots and bonnets,
Paid for bread and paid for firing,
Paid for all-electric wiring.
Poet was I by profession,
Turbaned head in midnight session
Dripped its sweat upon the pages
Limned with lines for future ages.
Future ages may be pleasant,
But I had to live the present:
Seats of trousers growing thinner,
Cheese and pickle all my dinner,
Long delay in paying taxes,
Warding duns away with axes.
Was it cheese and was it pickle
Slowed the torrent to a trickle?
Was it woe and was it worry
Turned the streamlet into slurry?
Greatest verse and greatest novels
Writ are not by men in hovels,
Whatsoever saith tradition.
Mirth is Muse’s best physician,
And she thrives on milk and honey,
Calls for meat and calls for money;
For a time though she belittles
Wealth, she sudden screams for vittles,
Scorns to tread on cottage gravel,
Loudly shrieks for foreign travel.
So it is I sing my ditty
On the verges of the City,
And perform poetic capers
In among the office papers.
What perhaps I find the oddest —
Muse is happier un-Goddessed,
Made the skivvy of my fancy,
Shoved aside for Mike and Clancy
When they take me out for bitter.
Muse of mine believes it fitter
She should shed her silver raiment,
Doing casual work for payment.
Worship her I may, as poet,
But I do not let her know it;
Tough she is, and growing tougher
As I treat her even rougher.
She adores to tie my laces,
And I court her in my braces,
Treat her like some dark and shady
Mistress rather than a lady.
As with women so with Muses:
Who is too attentive loses,
Who is casual’s the winner.
Where’s that damned Muse with my dinner?