I had no choice. This is my life. My trade
Was not in doubt. I was not pre-ordained
To take up hammer, chisel, brush or blade.
Long deskbound years I craved a craft; untrained,
Unmanned, I longed to work in wood or stone,
Thatch roofs, make flutes, shoe horses, hand-paint stained
Glass for cathedrals: I have never thrown
A pot (except in anger) wrought a wheel,
Felled timber, laid a hawthorn hedge or grown
A crop of winter wheat. Old ways appeal
To foolish heart, and fingers with no feel.
But what is this, if not a time-worn way
To work? Did men not celebrate in song
In times and tongues unknown – relive the day
Around the feasting fire? The ties are strong
Through generations. Just as some are stirred
By steel and brick, I know that I belong
To that long line who labour with the word.
Though fashion may, perhaps, not recognise
This métier, my voice remain unheard,
No company or office could devise
So grand a task, so glittering a prize.
And thus I find myself indentured, bound
Apprentice to the woods and fields: the sun
And scented air my salary; no pound
Pressed in my palm for pay when day is done.
My workshop is the world; my only tool
The pen; when ink hits paper, I’ve begun.
The iamb is my plumb-line, and the rule
Of rhyme and metre studied and obeyed.
I was enrolled in this exacting school
By higher powers. Their decision made,
I had no choice. This is my life, my trade.
As so often, I’m indebted to Thomas Davis, whose generous comments on a previous piece got me thinking about the whole notion of poetry as a craft. Haven’t tried the terza rima form for a while, and now I know why…the interlocking rhyme scheme (ABA BCB CDC, etc) can, in theory, go on forever, but for reasons that escape me now, I chose to do three stanzas, using a pair of ‘D’ rhymes to make the breaks. Drove me nearly demented, I can tell you. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to start and finish with the same line, but it’s the kind of thing Robert Frost would have done, and that’s good enough for me. N.