When I was one and twenty,
And starting on my way;
And hopes were high, and plenty
Of promise in the day;
The boss was keen to tell us
The future’s with the young,
So come along, you fellers,
And climb another rung!
To gain a reputation
And mix it with the rest,
With prospects of a station
Up there among the best;
Work was the beginning,
Facing to the sun,
With everything for winning
When I was twenty-one!
Now, my big lament is
That things are not to be,
For current ones-and-twenties,
The way they were for me;
How might I have faced it,
To sense I didn’t matter,
Just another crude statistic
In the unemployment data?
For Shakespeare, by decree of Heaven
The Ages of a Man were Seven;
Yet Businessmen, I’ve come to see,
Are limited at most to Three.
What Chairman you have known, in truth,
Went ‘mewling, puking’ in his youth?
Did Rupert Murdoch ever trail
To school ‘unwilling like a snail’ ?
What kind of regular Wall Street guy
Writes sonnets to his mistress’ eye?
Which banker, as implies the Bard,
Was ever ‘bearded like the pard’?
No! Business Man, we may deduce,
Leaps pin-striped from the head of Zeus,
Impatient for the business cycle
Before he’s slipped the umbilical !
No human heart, they say, can yearn
For what the eye does not discern;
Except, that is, down in the City,
Where the Invisibles Committee
Is stirred to hidden depths of yearning
By what we cannot see we’re earning.
And floating, as their name befits,
Unseen, above our deficits,
They conjure from the upper air,
Just like the man who wasn’t there,
Mysterious surpluses of trade
From products which were never made.
So, when the visibles are slipping,
Or sterling dangerously dipping
Into its periodic voids,
They calmly levitate from Lloyd’s,
Or unseen royalties and fees,
The means to raise us from our knees.
Of all the businesses, by far,
Consultancy’s the most bizarre!
For, to the penetrating eye,
There’s no apparent reason why,
With no more assets than a pen,
These hordes of women and of men
Can sell to clients more than twice
The same ridiculous advice;
Or find, in such a rich profusion,
Problems to fit their own solution!
The strategy that they pursue –
To give advice instead of do –
Keeps their fingers on the pulses
Without recourse to stomach ulcers;
And brings them monetary gain,
Without a modicum of pain.
You know the game where eight or nine
People whisper down the line,
And ‘reinforcements to advance’
Is ‘twenty-four cents for the dance’;
By the time the misbegotten
Message trickles to the bottom?
That’s roughly how it grabs the guys
Underneath the enterprise.
And peering up the Tower of Babel,
From somewhere in the corporate navel,
Is apt to give the ones below
As papers flutter down in legions
From pent-house to the nether regions
Producing, for the common herds,
A corporate flatulence of words.
The Chairman’s great phlegmatic calm
Spreads its reassuring balm,
Like oil upon our troubled waters,
Throughout the corporate headquarters;
And soothes away our worried frowns,
Across the business ups and downs,
With words of fatherly good cheer,
For fifty-one weeks of the year.
But, sometime in the fifty-second,
On past experience, we’ve reckoned,
Even he will fall, instead,
Victim to some inner dread;
And brood upon the now impending
Prospect of the fiscal ending
And his ritualistic beating
At the Annual General Meeting.
Economists, like those at law,
Are masters of the ‘either-or’;
They speak, in dark and Delphic prose,
Of putative scenarios,
But will not be specific on
The future till it’s been and gone;
And even then they can’t agree
On how it was, or came to be.
They flatter our directors’ brains
With supper-talk of Marx or Keynes,
But leave them feeling what’s so wrong
With just plain muddling – along. *
Thus Economics re-implants
The art of flying by your pants.