Back in My Day

I tested my courage—well, no, not really.
The heroic stuff had been done before.
My generation was all touchy-feely.
It was our parents who’d fought the war.

The post-war population bulge:
I have to admit we did pretty well.
No combat stories to divulge,
No austerity tales to tell.

Not for us the rifle drill,
The sight of bombers on the wing.
Our time was rock’n’roll and the pill,
When society began to swing.

Our forebears, they were tough all right.
But by the time we came along
The only battles left to fight
Were those found in a protest song.

Our lives were soft and safe and longer.
We lose out in just one way,
We cannot say to someone younger:
“Things were much harder in my day.”



Sonnet for Young Lovers

I walk along the grey abandoned shore
where she and I have kissed, and hand in hand
have strolled together only weeks before,
leaving our footprints on the soft warm sand.

She’s been unfaithful! She’s abandoned me.
My ship of love has foundered, run aground.
I vow that I will walk into the sea
And keep on walking till I have been drowned.

My body will be washed back on the beach,
My skeleton, the remnant of young love.
My eulogy will be the seagulls’ screech—
my only mourners, soaring high above.

The choking waves ascend forever slow
For this all happened fifty years ago.



David Whippman is a British poet, now retired after a career in healthcare. Over the years he’s had quite a few poems, articles and short stories published in various magazines.

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17 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    ‘We cannot say to someone younger: “Things were much harder in my day.”’

    Too true, David. Your poem ‘Back in my Day’ speaks to me on many levels.

    I love the humour and the imagery in your emo poem ‘Sonnet for Young Lovers’ (‘My ship of love has foundered,’ and ‘My eulogy will be the seagulls’ screech’, especially).

    Thanks for the reads.

    • David Whippman

      Thanks Paul, glad you like the pieces. I originally wrote the lovers’ sonnet in the past tense; it was Evan who suggested it might work better in the present tense, and I think he was right.

  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    I really like both of these. They are both very insightful about human nature.
    I agree with Paul about the line about the eulogy; I picked that out as my favorite right away.

    • David Whippman

      Thanks Cynthia, it ‘s always nice to get feedback, glad you liked them.

  3. Yael

    Nice stories, well told; thank you. I find both of these poems very entertaining in a thoughtful kind of way.

  4. Margaret Coats

    Done with artistic touch and authentic feel. I very much like the shortening of a single line in “Back in My Day”: “We lose out in just one way.” The “Sonnet for Young Lovers” creatively contradicts everything we think about a sonnet turn. Looks like it happens in line 5 (way too early). And then there’s the surprise volta in line 14, a little late even for an English sonnet turn in the couplet. Congratulations on a sonnet with double volta, both of them craftily unexpected.

    • David Whippman

      Thanks Margaret. It was Evan who suggested the ending for the sonnet, and I think it works a lot better than the one I originally gave it.

  5. Adam Wasem

    “Back in My Day” puts me in mind of that quote making the rounds, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, weak men create hard times.” Anyone else get the feeling we’re about to experience very hard times?

    • David Whippman

      Adam, thank you for your comments. I hope you’re wrong about what’s ahead, but the evidence says otherwise.

  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    Thanks for both, Mr. Whippman. Somehow I’m reminded of Evelyn Waugh’s attempted suicide being spoiled by jellyfish.

    • David Whippman

      Cheers Julian. As I age, it’s a source of wonder to me how the emotions of decades ago can be viewed dispassionately. Which is not to say that I’m not an old romantic at heart!

  7. C.B. Anderson

    The rhetorical turnings in the first poem were very sharp. And, O the irony!

    • David Whippman

      Thanks CB. Writing this one, I thought mainly of my stepdad. He served in WW2, in the Royal Navy, saw quite a lot of action, then as a civilian worked hard and got less out of the system than he paid in. I’m grateful for the honesty to admit that he was a better and braver man than me.

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Thank you, David! What a beautiful duo. Like Adam, ‘Back in My Day’ reminds me of the “Hard times create strong men…” quote. My favourite is ‘Sonnet for Young Lovers’ – I love the emotion, the images, and the humorous twists. You have raised the sonnet form to lofty heights, and I love it!

    • David Whippman

      Susan, thanks. Again I must acknowledge that this sonnet is effectively a collaboration between Evan and myself. But isn’t it strange how the intense personal emotion of youth can seem humorous, almost, after a few decades?

    • David Whippman

      PS: as one Brit to another, look at the cop in the photo. No stab vest, no pepper spray, no mace. We didn’t realise what a gentle age it was! But maybe the Trafalgar Square demo was a watershed, the sign that the writing was on the wall for Dixon of Dock Green.


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