Brief Lives

Nick is a barrister – a very well-heeled one,
Hugh is an actor on a very fast track,
James is a surgeon with rooms in Harley Street,
And Jeff is an out-of-work hack.

Hugh was a dandy in an Eton collar,
James was at Westminster and flew sky-high,
Nick was a Wykehamist and classical scholar,
And Jeff was at Liverpool High.

James had rooms by the river in Magdalen,
Nick played cricket and rowed for The House,
Hugh got ahead by merely dawdlin’,
And Jeff was a hard-working scouse.

James had a maisonette in Little Venice,
Nick took the room at the end of the hall,
Hugh shared a bed with a boy called Dennis,
And Jeff cooked and cleaned for them all.

Hugh got an agent and lived on promises,
Nick ate dinners in Lincoln’s Inn,
James bought a skeleton and studied at Thomas’s,
And Jeff joined a rag in King’s Lynn.

James marched about with a ruddy great stethoscope,
Nick passed his finals and went to the Bar,
Hugh got a break and a part in a telly soap,
And Jeff wrote for Which Abattoir?

Hugh got the lead in the new Robert Redford,
James made his name in the transplant field,
Nick won a famous murder case in Bedford,
And Jeff got the boot and appealed.

James has a place in Mustique where he winters,
Hugh went to Hollywood and never came back,
Nick got a peerage and dines with the Pinters,
And Jeff’s still an out-of-work hack.


(from Now We Are Sixty, by Christopher Matthew)


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