My Mother, she said, she said to me, Bill, when I went away to school,
Bill, said she, Bill, listen to me, your Father’s a bit of a fool,
He wants you to study to cram your head
With Shakespeare and stuff that is best unread
You’re a short time living a long time dead, don’t fish in a fish-less pool.
Your Father became a scholar, Bill, and see what he is today
Look at the overcoat, he’s on, what’s left of his hair is grey,
He can quote you Latin and French and Greek, but his eyes are sad and his voice is meek
And he speaks as no man aught to speak, who intends to make his way.
He’s a gentle man with a scholarly mind he’s wise and faithful and good and kind
But he wears a patch on his seat behind, because scholarship does not pay.
I once had a thought like your Father had, but they’re well knock out of me now,
I too, once studied with puzzled frown and wrinklings of the brow,
I knew that pied was the French for foot, the Latin for goose was anser,
but down the mine where no nuggets shine, I want you to be a chancer.
Your living my son in a bluffers world where the brash and the bumptious rise,
So do not bury your head in books, you’ll only harm your eyes,
Learn a little but not too much, think of so and so and who is such and such
He’s a mental cripple without a crutch but he can still fool the wise.
And remember this when your leaving school in search of a career,
With a laundered shirt and a Leaving Cert and an Irish taste for beer,
Don’t set out to get a job, you’ll only find work that way
You’ve got to be free to buzz around with your nose to the wind and your ear to the ground
In the glittering hall where the bounders bound and and the smooth one makes the hay.
Be ready to jump on the bandwagon Bill, when the music is soft and gay,
And be smart enough to leap softly off when a bigger band comes your way,
For life’s a treacherous highway, son, and he will avoid the bumps
Who waits three weeks before he speaks to see how the old cat jumps,
Learning is a nice thing I agree, but it doesn’t compare for L.S.D,
With a nose for opportunity and the bluff laid on him in lumps.
My brother took my Mother’s advice, and you’d want to see him now,
With a nice pink skin on his second chin and omniscience on his brow,
He’s a chairman of everything that’s on, he’s a bag of wind with a dress suit on
And he wouldn’t look at our cousin John, he’s a nose like an Arab dhow
His bluff is great and his knowledge bare but he knows where he’s going and he’ll get there
And he’ll always take the bow.
If I had listened to what was said to me by my own dear Mother,
I wouldn’t have bothered to study and work, I’d have been like my other brother.
I’d end my days in leather and plush and wealth and power I’d gather,
But I’m sharing a room in Shepherd’s Bush with another old bloke, my Father.
William O’Donnell – 1964
Copyright – The estate of William O’Donnell 2017