Warning, a poem by Jenny Joseph

 

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick the flowers in other people's gardens

And learn to spit


You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes


But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.


But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The second line of this poem inspired the formation of America's Red Hat Society, the largest women's social group in the world (which has over 70,000 members and almost 24,000 chapters in the US and 25 other countries) and encourages fun, friendship, freedom and fulfilment.

 

Jenny Joseph reads her poem 'Warning', Britain's most popular post-war poem, according to poll conducted by the BBC in 1996.