Dereliction of duty


I stand condemned: Desertion is the charge
Against me. I’ve been absent many days
Without excuse. Now, desperate hours at large
Have left me craving those familiar ways
I’ve left unwatched, neglected for too long.
The Real World insisted. So I went
But saw no beauty, heard no truth nor song.
So I’m returned, soul-weary, to repent.
The greenwoods will absolve me, stay their hand;
The quiet lanes acquit me and forgive;
The fox and fieldfares will understand
How seasons send us journeying to live.
With strength restored, I now resume my post
Among the things I’ve missed, and love, the most.


I offer this poem partly in explanation, partly in apology, for my recent lack of communication: having been somewhat under-employed for a few months, I’ve had scarcely a moment to myself the last couple of weeks. I’ve been working away from home more than usual (although still, mercifully, less than if I had a full-time job!) and missing the woods and fields and lanes, as well as my family, my music, my writing – and you, my friends. Happily this week’s looking a little less crazy, so I’m intending to make amends, and catch up on my reading of your wonderful work. Thank you for sticking by me.

12 thoughts on “Dereliction of duty

  1. Nick, a new poem written by you is always a cause for celebration. Lives can get in the way of poetry sometimes, but the truth is that without poetry our lives lose our way–at least that’s how life is with me. I hope the under-employment is not causing problems. You are one of my favorite poets, and I would mourn if you and your family at not okay.
    I love the poem, of course. It tells a central truth. The Real World is no friend of poetry–at least not the Real World of the 21st century. I am not about to pack myself into a corporation and live in the Real World, so I do not think anyone really sees any Beauty there. Spending time there, which I, like you, am required to do occasionally, is soul-weary time.
    But the truth is that
    The greenwoods will absolve me, stay their hand;
    The quiet lanes acquit me and forgive;
    The fox and fieldfares will understand
    How seasons send us journeying to live.
    The couplet at the end of the sonnet is, as you understand already, magnificent.

    • Thank you so much, Thomas. The Real World (so-called) is an ugly place and, as you say, no friend to poetry, or poets. I give thanks daily that I’m only an occasional visitor, not a permanent resident! Being freelance isn’t an easy row to hoe; even now, after 13 years, it still scares me to death sometimes. But in that respect, my infrequent forays into companies and corporations are healthy and salutory, since they remind me what’s truly important. And it ain’t money. N.

      • Ahh, freelancing! I tried that for awhile, but it was definitely not for me. I got contracts all right, but I was always afraid to turn the next one down, so half the time I was frantic in my effort to get the work done. The rest of the time I was frantic because the money due me came in so slowly that we had a terrible time living until the check came in. It takes someone of a strong mind and great talent to freelance. It was definitely not for me! I am better as the Dean of a college.

      • That all sounds very familiar..! I’ve been working 60 miles away again today, on a project for a little company you may have heard of (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars) but that’s my wanderings done for the week, and I’m going cycling with a friend tomorrow morning. Freelancing can be tough, but it’s not without its compensations!

    • Hey Charles, thansk for your good wishes – it’s been a tough couple of years, that’s for sure. Whether my recent busy-ness is just a blip or a sign of better times remains to be seen; all I can do, as ever, is just go with it, I guess!

  2. Hi Nick
    I missed you and I am glad to hear from you again. Life can be too much at times and of course, like fox and fieldfares (have to look that one up), I understand your absence 🙂 Poetry (and prose) is your way to express yourself, and if the rest of world is not friendly to it, so be it 🙂 it is a good thing you had work to do! 🙂 but now you are back on the nest lol. Enjoy your writing!
    Ina x

    • Hi Ina, lovely to hear from you. You’re right; it’s a good thing having work to do, and I’m certainly not complaining about that, especially with the way the world is these days! As I’m sure you know, ‘feast or famine’ is the freelancer’s lot; I’ve been so used to ‘famine’ the last couple of years, the present ‘feast’ is proving a rather rich and unhealthy diet, that’s all! Looking forward to catching up with your latest very soon. N.x

  3. Good to have you back Nick.

    And to know you are still amongst us 🙂

    Freelance is never easy – particularly in times of recession (been there, done that) but we learn to survive.

    I did find that when I was out there in that world the best restorative was to find a quiet place for five minutes and allow my mind to drift to the end of the pier at Whitby. You have those places in your head too 🙂

    Beautiful poem


    • Thank you, David – wise words as always. However precarious freelancing gets sometimes, it beats the hell out of commuting and working in an office full-time. Been there, done that – never again. And you’re right; I do have places in my head I can retreat to. The problem is persuading myself to come back again!

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