The Fourth Age of Man

(for David)

For thirty years he’s graced a worldly stage.
But how many of the ages has he passed?
From infancy, performer with a rage
to tackle every obstacle full on,
straight ahead without a second thought;
without the slightest hint of hesitation:
you don’t go round when you can go straight through!
Dressed in red from toe to head, he was,
with little time for his good looks right now,
covered in mud from welly to blond-wig’d brow.

Talented, unwilling to conform,
off came the stabilisers on his bike
‘cause no-one told him that he couldn’t do it!
…except his older sister, who was miffed.
He didn’t like to listen much at school
(but we know he did, because of what he knows).
His application to his tasks, unbridled:
he swam across the county, like a dervish,
his physical abilities undoubted,
with blistering speed the bleep record he routed.

Then he turned lover and gradually revealed
a side of him we weren’t too sure about.
At first, the music.. and drums of ancient men,
whose rhythms brought about a transformation;
a revolution of wine and girls and song,
a heady mixture that’s made him rather wise;
a salutary lesson that opened up his eyes
to find the unbounded love of one good woman,
who helped him see what, all along, he’d known:
that needs of others were greater than his own.

Onward Christian soldier, hear them sing,
the famed fourth age of man has come to him…

© 2012 John Anstie

First published in March 2012

[The theme of this poem is based on the “Seven Ages of Man”,
a monologue, which William Shakespeare wrote to open his
play, “As You Like It”, published 400 years ago. The seven
ages are: Infancy, Childhood, The Lover, The Soldier,
The Justice, Old Age and Decline.]

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