A New Profession

Or, What to Do with Our Sons?

Original Text: 
Owen Seaman, Salvage (London: Archibald Constable, 1908): 77-79. Internet Archive ABT-4796.
1My hopeless boy! when I compare
2    (Claiming a father's right to do so)
3Your hollow brain, your vacuous air,
4With all the time, and wealth and care
5    Lavished upon your mental trousseau;
6Over my waistcoat's ample pit
7    This ravening grief holds constant session--
8That through a total lack of wit
9You are deplorably unfit
10    To follow any known profession.
11No tutelary genius shone
12    About your scalp in school or college;
13Therefore you cannot be a Don,
14Or anything reposing on
16You never nursed the godlike spark
17    That kindles men to serve the nation;
18I trow that, as a Treasury clerk,
19You never could have made your mark
20    Or even earned a decoration.
22    Your hopes of making healthy men sick;
23And, as for practice at the Bar,
24Your gifts--I don't know what they are,
25    But know, at least, they're not forensic.
26You might, by steady cram, aspire
27    To dodge the test of martial duty;
28But you have shown no keen desire
31Remains the Church, where you might seek
33Yet here, again, I find you weak
34In certain graces, such as Greek,
35    That go to make the perfect curate.
37    You wish to say that, thanks to Heaven, you
38Have found a suitable career
39At some £300 a year
40    Drawn from a grateful country's revenue?
41My credulous son! Your faith would break
42    The records of the Middle Ages!
43Skilled work, and past your wits to fake,
44Needs must he do who means to make
46What's that? The House intends to treat
47    Its private self to public payment?
48Eventually hopes to meet,
49By saving money on the Fleet,
50    Its bills for bed and board and raiment?
51Embrace me, boy! I felt afraid
52    That you would never find your mission;
53You knew no sort of craft or trade,
55    You shall become a Politician !
56My hopes for you, preposterous oaf,
57    Were ashes; now to flame you fan 'em;
58No need to toil or spin or chauff
59When you can comfortably loaf,
61Embrace your father! You shall see
62    How well the prospect serves to stem his fear
63He'll stand his son the entrance fee,
65    The finest Club in either hemisphere.


15] plinth: pedestal of a column. Back to Line
21] medical prelim: preliminary exam to enter medical school. Back to Line
29] pom-pom: automatic gun. Back to Line
30] Haldane: Richard Burdon Haldane, Viscount Haldane (1856.-1928), English minister appointed to the War Office in 1905 where he effected a reform of the armed forces. Back to Line
32] pew-rate: income from the rent of church pews to church-goers. Back to Line
36] chauff: short for "chaffer" or the buying and selling of trade-goods. Back to Line
45] Six of the best: six pounds sterling (per week). Back to Line
54] metier: forte. Back to Line
60] touch: receive (with an undertone of stealing). Back to Line
64] M.P.: Member of Parliament. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: