Unhappy man I am! I can’t tell
Why I dread the gods of heaven,
The purgatorial demons of hell,
The truths I need but haven’t;
Happy pig in a philosopher wig!
Apprentice me earnest and true –
Which to embrace, which to rue,
Unhappy man or happy pig?
‘Sad Socrates,’ the hog retorts
In tacit snores and tactics snorts –
‘Be you wise or cometh short –
No gods kill us for their sport;
Live life as one happy pig
Die death as one happy man;
Only imagined gods wear wig;
Who fears no gods happy am!
Get a life! Live or die your tale,
Stop chasing your airy-fairy tail!
Life and death duly go the round;
Entrance is exit come around.
Notes for Happy Pig; Unhappy Man
This poem is a satirical ‘take’ on an age-old debate. Over two millennia ago, Socrates asserted that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ and purportedly, asked if it was better to be a happy pig or an unhappy man. The 19 century philosopher John Stuart Mills rephrased the debate thus: “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.” In the poem, the second persona takes on the role of the ‘other party’. It is ironic that he is a ‘happy pig in a philosopher’s wig’- whether literally or metaphorically is left to the reader’s judgment but the pig offers an ‘other party’ answer worth pondering. Wigs were once fashionable in the upper strata of European society. A man with the pretentious ambitions of mounting the social ladder was called a ‘pig in a wig’.
This poem is part of the Poetry Book Arrow of Time