A Hopeless Occupation

Your public executioner has little thought of glory:
It isn't till he's sixty that the papers buy his story.
Until this rest from setting traps or even wielding axes,
It's just a neck or two to crack. There's nothing much that
taxes.
The hood is free, the hours short (if totally unsocial),
But expects that anyone dispensing dread or woe shall
Hobble home at daybreak, flush with compliments from coppers?
There's not a band of boys as bleak as honorary toppers.

Imagine, if you will, the sort of thoughtless, fruitless hours
A hangman has to spend alone. He'll maybe lop some flowers,
Or fix the pictures round the house, or, if a case is hotting
Up, he might in private fall to practising his knotting;
No matter what he does, no matter how he is inventive,
There's nothing in his occupation offering incentive.
His governors have ordered him "on no account to phone us" -
And there isn't half a dog's chance of some overtime or bonus.

His occupation doesn't have a single whiff of glamour;
His customers are locked away inside a distant slammer;
Perhaps he dreams of Titipu, of posing on a rostrum,
But Life, alas, is not like Art (a celebrated nostrum).
Anonymous, invisible, dependent on a jury
(A state that rouses any craftsman to a raging fury),
He has to keep his trap shut - God! it really must be awful
To hang around a home and hope they'll make your business
lawful!



From the book Send-Up