Ode to Mr Free Lance

To whom it may concern the most
or least (it hardly matters) here
I introduce my worthy friend, and boast
our intimacy dear. He flatters
you with smiling eyes that seem to say
“I know your soul”, though words betray
no condescension, premonition,
any sense of vain ambition.
“My name” he says “is Free Lance, though
by many names I come and go
much as I please.” Perhaps to know
this tale, be it one of woe
or one of sweet adventure is
what brings you here? Well then
let’s hear the story of my worthy friend,
Mr Free Lance, and his happy end.

When Free was born, he came out screaming – 
in every way a normal child
they took him home, his parents beaming,
hoping desperately no wild
thoughts would ever claim the head
of little Free. But in his bed
his dreams would stray to things of colour,
things of music, things that other
older people say are nothing,
just imagination,
adulthood will cure him of the notion
ought else matters but the Golden
Calf we cast, which all our motion
governs. We must be beholden
to that sullen idol – why not he?
What right has he to thinking free?

Much to their intense frustration,
little Free’s imagination
could not be easily contained.
From youth and upward he remained
so unconcerned with things of money
that when he worked the sort of task
that surely only greed for cash
could warrant donning such a mask,
he never lasted, ne’er excelled,
but rather when at home beheld
the things that touched the soul –
things of wisdom, beauty, things which hold
the mind enthralled. So he, appalled
with things of little substance 
– for centuries the mind’s incumbrance –
turned away, and gave his eyes
to the vision of the wise.

In time he trained himself to see
the glorious luminosity of ancient Greece,
and leaning on philosophy, found peace
of sorts, and tasting Sabine wine
read Horace – “Carpe Diem” – time
only is his great resource.
Gilded though your cage may be,
Art makes him infinitely free
to love, think, feel, enter the world
through beauty, not to count the cost
of money earnt, or money lost.
Life is to him the means of seeing
that which surely is our being,
for why else are we here, he asks,
if not with fervent hands to grasp
at truth? To relish godly tasks?

“My name” he says “is Free Lance, though
by many names I come and go
much as I please.” So now you know
the tale of my worthy friend.
“But wait,” you ask, “the happy end
of which you spoke remains untied.”
I asked him once, and he replied
“My name is Free, and Free I died.”

PW
2 October 2020

For DH, who taught me about fine poetry as well as fine wine

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