The Grind of the Ancient Manager

(with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

It is an ancient manager,
And he works from eight till late:
With his loss of hair and gormless stare
I envy not his fate.

This new recruit is greener than
A freshly budding shoot:
For his career he shapes his soul,
His sharp mind, resolute.

The elder clears his throat to draw
The focus of the lad
To wisdom long matured in myth,
In corporate slogans clad.

The new recruit trapped at his desk
Cannot choose but to hear;
So ever and on the dross spews from
The moribund manager.

"There were no PC's in those days --
I totalled in my head:
And if the problem grew too hard,
A slide-rule served instead.

We never argued with our boss,
For it was not our place
To raise ourselves above our rank,
Or look straight in his face."

In aphoristic effluent
The boy begins to drown,
His eyelids, leaden burdens from
Last night spent on the town.

Despite the drone of drivel, he
Cannot afford to yawn,
And to the sage's wisdom
He must show that he is drawn.

"Men were true men when I was young,
And leaders earned respect:
For all could see integrity
Was what we should protect.

These kids today expect the world
Served with a fork and knife:
To reach the top I gave my all --
This company was my life."

He takes his tongue between his teeth
And, though it seems insane,
He keeps himself atuned, alert
By self inflicted pain.

A wash of words blur to a haze:
He gives his tongue a bite
To stop his thoughts returning to
A girl he'd met last night.

"When I was young we'd double-check
To make sure work was right.
And if the boss said "make it soon",
We'd stay up half the night.

You clever young-folk don't know what
Commitment's all about.
You'll not be rich until you know
What it's like to go without."

This trial by tedium has to be
A chance for him to prove
His willingness to tow the line.
The slightest sigh or groan may sign
A career limiting move.

He struggles not to look away
Nor fidget with his hands.
With knowing nods and eager smile
He shows he understands.

At last, the ancient company man,
Surprised at the interest shown,
Commends the lad for his repartee,
Then returns to the lonely office where he
Dwells in the twilight zone.


I met that lad once more when sweat
Had paved the path he sought.
His status in the company proved
The lessons he was taught.

His rich rewards within the firm
Came not without some cost--
His words, his tastes, his moods, his dreams
All mourned the youth he'd lost.

He worked as one that had been stunned,
And was of sleep forlorn:
A duller and a wearier man,
He rose each working morn.