Friday, November 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: Careers

Robert Graves is well-known for his poetry, close to 50 collections were published during his lifetime, and his novels, including, I Claudius and Claudius the God. 

The below poem appeared in his second collection of poetry, Fairies and Fusiliers. It's clear he had already realized it was okay to go into a career his father was good at. However, the poem illustrates quite well the desire in some families to excel at different pursuits.

Careers - Robert Graves
(from Fairies and Fusiliers, 1918.)

FATHER is quite the greatest poet
   That ever lived anywhere.
You say you’re going to write great music—
   I chose that first: it’s unfair.
Besides, now I can’t be the greatest painter and
      do Christ and angels, or lovely pears
      and apples and grapes on a green dish,
      or storms at sea, or anything lovely,
Because that’s been taken by Claire.

It’s stupid to be an engine-driver,
   And soldiers are horrible men.
I won’t be a tailor, I won’t be a sailor,
   And gardener’s taken by Ben.
It’s unfair if you say that you’ll write great
      music, you horrid, you unkind (I sim-
      ply loathe you, though you are my
      sister), you beast, cad, coward, cheat,
      bully, liar!
Well? Say what’s left for me then!

But we won’t go to your ugly music.
   (Listen!) Ben will garden and dig,
And Claire will finish her wondrous pictures
   All flaming and splendid and big.
And I’ll be a perfectly marvellous carpenter,
      and I’ll make cupboards and benches
      and tables and … and baths, and
      nice wooden boxes for studs and
And you’ll be jealous, you pig!

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