MS (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! ! The Moral Rights

‘The moral rights of the author
have been asserted’… that, I’m told,
is what I should say when I write
anything for publication here; even before
I say anything..

It means, I guess, the more, the less..
than ‘Copyright’ which normally
gets printed just above it;
which just means, don’t copy this;

whereas ‘moral rights’ convey
so much more…
suggesting that I even possess morality;
which, considering my wild, undisciplined
former life, you might well question..

but note, I merely ‘assert’ them;
feel free to challenge them (you note that ‘rights’
are plural; plenty lawyer’s fees there
to say, well maybe this, not that…

and you’re free (your defending counsel may assert)
to copy my poem and put your own name to it;
since truth can be in no man’s sole possession,
and my poem, bless its metered tropes,
speaks naught but the truth..

though now I mention ‘truth’, I don’t recall
that phrase about the moral rights
upon the title-page of, let’s say,
the Gospels; Books of Moses; Qu’ran; Upanishads;
those guys on whom we’ve so long depended
to tell us what morality should be..

so please understand, that when I ‘assert’,
it’s more for my self-image than for yours;
makes me feel good; I must be
a serious author, if (in the subtext, scholars footnote)
the moral underpinning may be detected..

and that said – now to the poem.. Except
now I’ve forgotten what I was going to say..

Perhaps that, too, is a moral issue; but
I have the right to remain silent..
even if I’m up on this morality charge..

my defence is, that my Muse,
hearing the word ‘morality’,
flees my company. ’Twas ever so.

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