Diva Musing: When I am Old I will wear purple…

This is a repeat that I love and admire…..Namaste, The Queen Cronista….

The Story Behind “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” 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 practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

© Jenny Joseph, SELECTED POEMS, Bloodaxe 1992.
Reproduced with permission of Johnson & Alcock Ltd.

(Update: I am so sad to report that Jenny passed away on January 8, 2018 at age 85. What a wonderful gift she has left us!)


Do you recognize this poem?

A 1996 survey BBC identified it as the UK’s most popular post-war poem, beating Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night.” It’s called “Warning” and was written by Jenny Joseph (1932- ).

It reminds me of my mother. She and Jenny were born the same year. Mom revels in her position as the Gypsy Queen of Geri-Antics, wearing loud floral shirts, sporting several toe rings, and eating sausages.

This made me wonder about Jenny herself. Where is she now? Is she actually wearing dazzling blouses and skyrocketing her cholesterol count?

As it turns out, Jenny doesn’t qualify as a late bloomerShe composed “Warning” at age 29 and continued writing throughout her adult life. But this one poem has defined her, despite a large and rich body of work. It has inspired thousands of women to wear purple—but she hates the color herself.


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