Joyce Kilmer

(1886-1918 / New Jersey)

Old Poets


(For Robert Cortez Holliday)

If I should live in a forest
And sleep underneath a tree,
No grove of impudent saplings
Would make a home for me.

I'd go where the old oaks gather,
Serene and good and strong,
And they would not sigh and tremble
And vex me with a song.

The pleasantest sort of poet
Is the poet who's old and wise,
With an old white beard and wrinkles
About his kind old eyes.

For these young flippertigibbets
A-rhyming their hours away
They won't be still like honest men
And listen to what you say.

The young poet screams forever
About his sex and his soul;
But the old man listens, and smokes his pipe,
And polishes its bowl.

There should be a club for poets
Who have come to seventy year.
They should sit in a great hall drinking
Red wine and golden beer.

They would shuffle in of an evening,
Each one to his cushioned seat,
And there would be mellow talking
And silence rich and sweet.

There is no peace to be taken
With poets who are young,
For they worry about the wars to be fought
And the songs that must be sung.

But the old man knows that he's in his chair
And that God's on His throne in the sky.
So he sits by the fire in comfort
And he lets the world spin by.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Walterrean Salley (8/9/2012 7:33:00 PM)

    The young poet screams forever
    About his sex and his soul;
    But the old man listens, and smokes his pipe,
    And polishes its bowl.

    No mincing words here. He’s said it all, and I have nothing to add. A very interesting piece finely written. And, oh, the images. Great job. (Report) Reply

  • Joe Breunig (12/20/2011 6:00:00 AM)

    A marvelous piece; in theory, with age comes experience and from that experience comes wisdom; too bad that there isn't a restriction in age before one is allowed to write poetry; we need less poems regarding lust and angst and more that teach us to be better people.

    -Joe Breunig
    Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory (Report) Reply

  • Cynthia Buhain-baello (7/16/2009 8:07:00 AM)

    Young 'flippertigibbets', young poets who scream forever of their sex and their life,
    a-rhyming their time away....still sadly happens today. Kilmer's words still relevant and full of wisdom. (Report) Reply

  • Kash Earley (6/5/2008 1:01:00 AM)

    Ms. Kilmer this exquisite piece reads so true of today. The now and the nostalgia
    overwhelms. Thank you. Would that you were still amongst us more than in spirit, your sense of humor would indeed enjoy james b. earley's poem AN OLD CODGER ROSE AND MADE HIS WAY.....old men are the bomb.

    Kash Earley (Report) Reply

Read all 5 comments »

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