The Lesson by Edward Lucie-Smith

The Lesson

by Edward Lucie-Smith

"Your father's gone," my bald headmaster said.

His shiny dome and brown tobacco jar

Splintered at once in tears. It wasn't grief.

I cried for knowledge which was bitterer

Than any grief. For there and then I knew

That grief has uses - that a father dead

Could bind the bully's fist a week or two;

And then I cried for shame, then for relief.


I was a month past ten when I learnt this:

I still remember how the noise was stilled

in school-assembly when my grief came in.

Some goldfish in a bowl quietly sculled

Around their shining prison on its shelf.

They were indifferent. All the other eyes

Were turned towards me. Somewhere in myself

Pride, like a goldfish, flashed a sudden fin.