Old Grumpies: ‘Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day?’

The Old Grumpies discussed poetry and why people only seem to know the first line of a poem
The Old Grumpies discussed poetry and why people only seem to know the first line of a poem

At our recent meeting we decided to re-visit an old topic and pose the question “ Why is it that some people….?” and hope to get some new aspects.

Lots of familiar subjects were mentioned such as dog owners, taxi- drivers, cyclists on pavements, dozy and nosey parkers, the Thought Police, rubbish throwers and the numpties who think they know everything. Then one member suddenly said “ Why is it that some people don’t find me funny?” Perhaps, in retrospect, he probably wishes he hadn’t asked the question because he was immediately told that the word “some” should be withdrawn from the question. Then he was given three good reasons in answer.

(1) He tries to tell the same joke about Lady Camilla nearly every meeting.

(2) He usually forgets the punch line and asks for help.

(3) Then, when we are discussing such topics as “The influence of Christianity on Western civilisation” he should not suddenly try to tell an unfortunate “ mother-in-law joke”. It was entirely predictable that he would sulk for the rest of the meeting and it was even worse when someone told his Lady Camilla joke and every one laughed.

Out of the blue someone then asked, “Why is it that a lot of the people in Scotland, Wales and Ireland don’t like us very much?” (Us being the English presumably and not the Grumpies) This was a chance for the historians to air their knowledge. Apparently in the 13th century King Edward I wasn’t very nice to the Scots and they have held a grievance ever since, the Welsh don’t like us because we have won the World Rugby Union Cup and they haven’t and the Irish think we blighted their potatoes.

King Edward was known as Malleus Scotorum which sounds like some disease but the Scots did not like him one little bit. That’s why they don’t want to be in our club and seek their Independence. Only a modicum of thought is required to realise that they will be jumping from the British frying pan into the European fire.

Before any further discussion could take place the Chairman reminded us that at the last meeting we had agreed (to please our resident clever-clogs) that we would do some homework and bring our favourite poem to the next meeting. When we were asked to produce the homework, the following none-too original excuses were offered. “I left it on the bus”, “The dog ate it” and “ I had to go to my Grandma’s funeral”. These dubious reflex excuses were throwbacks from our school days but at least it showed that some parts of our memories are still working.

But then a member who had done some work on the subject asked “Why is it that some people know the first line of many poems but not the second line”. We didn’t realise then but this was a trap, because he had prepared some in advance which he obviously thought were hilarious. Here are some examples.

“ I wandered lonely as a cloud, and fell into some daffodils for crying out loud”

“ Drink to me only with your eyes, for I’ve only enough money left for some pies”

“ Shall I compare thee to a summers day, or do you want to get cracking straight away?”

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, but if it’s cold and wet with the midges out, I could be back by three”.

“Half a league, Half a league onward, this ancient Sat. Nav. is a useless…..He then admitted that he couldn’t think of an ending and seemed surprised that all his efforts had been received in stony silence.

He then said, being serious for a moment, that he thought a poem by Dylan Thomas could be a motto for The Old Grumpies.

“Do not go gentle into the good night.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

“Hear! Hear!” was the unanimous response.