Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Let Me Die A Youngman's Death - Roger McGough

Let me die a youngman's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsers
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death

I think this speaks to a lot of us, that desire to go out with a bang, rather than a whimper.  Who wants to go through the pearly gates in a wheelchair with tubes in your nose?  This poem, besides being tremendously humorous, speaks to our deep fears about aging and dying in obscurity, dying infirm.  Who wants to live the last of their life confined to a bed, limping alone?  The desire to go out in a blaze of glory is ancient and worldwide.

I might be paraphrasing a bit here, but on one of my favorite TV programs, Top Gear (UK), one of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, has said that when he dies, he wants it to be an anecdote.  I think that sums up this poem pretty well.  McGough wants his death to be a funny story at a party, the kind of thing people remember, not some sanitized, boring, sanctified and dignified passing.  I can understand that, though being young, I think about death far less often than I should.  This poem certainly appeals to that testosterone fueled part of my psyche, that craves adventure and desires hungrily for challenge and notice.  It's certainly appealing.  91 and gunned down by gangsters?  What a badass, right?  That's the allure of this poem, of the youngman's death.


  1. I love your blog! Each time I get the e-mail notification for a new poem posted, it is like an oasis in this crazy life.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! It's often the best part of my day, sitting down and writing up a post here. It's an oasis for me, as well!

  2. What a wonderful poem and I heard it for the first time tonight on 'Inspector George Gently' and it impressed me so much I had to google for it.

    1. That's where I heard it for the first time! And as you, I took a note and here I am finally down to that sticky and on Google. The internet rules!

    2. Thank Hid indeed fir Inspector George Gently. Love that series
      Love this poem ๐Ÿ˜

    3. Thank Hid indeed fir Inspector George Gently. Love that series
      Love this poem ๐Ÿ˜

    4. Thank Hid indeed fir Inspector George Gently. Love that series
      Love this poem ๐Ÿ˜

    5. I head it first on George Gently as well and was led to google it.

    6. Me too. George Gently. The boy recited it beautifully.

  3. yes, thank God for George Gently and Roger McGough. The sentiment strikes a chord in and with me as well. As a healthcare provider, I see too many tubes and zombies. A blaze of glory for me I think.......I hope.

  4. @Annie in Tassie: I heard it for the first time tonight on 'Inspector George Gently' as well. It left such an impression on me too and I googled for it and here I am. Thank you, @Christopher and I agree that poems should be read more especially by the young men.

  5. Fancy Insp. Gently being the educator of us uninitiated morons! tonight 8 pm the repeat caught my heart too.

  6. I'm 87 going on 88 and I too want to go out in blaze of glory. Will my last book 'Brain Child' give me that amazing accolade? I loved the poem as I love so much about genuine writing and feelings put on paper. I will look for your poems again, Chris. Have a lucky 2018