A good friend died last night— not unexpected—
Pneumonia— that crafty ‘old man’s friend’;
Though Bobby wasn’t ‘old’, the fates elected
To take a good man gently. In the end,
We each must choose to fight or to surrender,
To ‘rage against the dying of the light’—
Which reads right well for poet lords to render,
But what of those too weary for the fight?
And what of us, still prey to life’s extortion,
To transient joys the fates allot in lieu?
We learn to mourn, to seize our meagre portion,
Flesh shrinking at the turn of each new screw:
Our tribute coined in guilt when grief is bled—
A Maundy purse the living gift the dead.
My old friend, Bob Price, of whom I have written before in ‘Spitting Out the Pips’ (Lone Wolf) finally succumbed on Sunday, March 27, 2005. He would have laughed at the lines above, and poured me a stiff whisky to buck me up— had he been able to move his arms or legs, or even his head. Bobby was probably the most beloved manager of a ‘gentleman’s club’ in London’s Soho— hardly a profession or a locality in which the word ‘beloved’ is in daily use. If they held a funeral procession through the narrow streets of Soho for Robert Price, I am certain that hundreds, probably thousands, of whores, strippers, barmen, bouncers, policemen, dossers, waiters, chefs, firemen, gangsters, restaurant owners, hard men, gamblers, bureaucrats, journalists, landlords, local residents and at least two or three high court judges would attend. Not perhaps the life any mother might have chosen for a son, but a good life, honestly and handsomely lived. He was man who ‘walked the line’ himself, who didn’t drink or smoke or curse or break the law— but who refrained from judging others who did, and who earned universal respect in so doing. I doubt he had an enemy in the world. How many of us can say the same?
‘Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’
Maundy money: The Maundy ceremony originally consisted of the washing of feet of a number of poor people by the British monarch on the Thursday before Easter. Today, especially minted silver coins are distributed by the sovereign each Maundy Thursday. Their value is related to the number of years the sovereign has reigned.