John Bilsborough 1971

Our hero, little James, was not, the world's most dedicated swot.
His parents tried, with threats and praise, to help him mend his idle ways.
They bought him books, with charts and maps and stories about clever chaps
who Got It Right and Did Their Best, but James, alas, was unimpressed,
and went, as people sometimes say (with bated breath), his own sweet way.

When he cavorted in the brook, he scorned to take his little book
of Flowers of the Field and Fen, and even at the age of ten,
to his dear parents' lasting shame, he could not give the Latin name
of any common weed, nor state if it were spathed or cuspidate.

Though all admitted he was bright, and on occasions quite polite,
to doting aunts when in receipt, or under promise of, some treat.
His teachers showed sincere concern: "What will you do? When will you learn?"
And he said, "Lady Luck will dance with those who give her half a chance.
I rather fancy that the curse of Education makes things worse."

So, when he found a crowded bed of four-leaf clovers near the shed,
he did not call mama to see this floral curiosity,
but scooped them up and straightway sent the text of an advertisement,
with postal order to impart the good news via "Exchange and Mart."

This first, clandestine, enterprise brought in so many prompt replies,
with fivers in each envelope, he laboured to increase the scope
of this new venture, in his room - his parents happy to assume
that he was swotting for exams and puzzling over kilograms,
and studying Shakespeare, drawing graphs and learning about golden daffs.

But, no, while staid and studious chums abused their fevered brains with sums,
our hero laboured to devise fresh outlets for his enterprise...
The fateful day arrived at last. The sweating little swots all passed,
each one admitting, in his heart, though while success was earned, a part,
a little part, was owed to Fred, their lucky frog, or Tiny Ted,
some mascot, amulet or charm or suchlike, keeping them from harm.

Our hero, who was not a swot, took his exams and failed the lot,
and faced a chorus of dismay: "You've learned your lesson, anyway."
Indeed he had. He knew that hope was easier to sell than soap.
And every day a thousand more requests came popping through the door,
for talismans and lucky stones, St Christophers and holy bones
and charms and spells and healing vapours, bingo pencils, scratch-card scrapers,
magic numbers, lucky spoons, wishbones, horoscopes and runes
and fluffy dice and rabbits' feet... It would be fun, but indiscreet,
to name some famous names who bless our James for bringing them success.

Now, he pays all the clever swots to tie themselves in dreadful knots
in sorting out his V.A.T. and suchlike foolishness, while he
cavorts in blissful ignorance, in clover, in the South of France.

The end