Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death

Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death

By Roger McGough

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holy water death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death.

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an all-night party.

Or when I’m 91
With silver hair
And sitting in a barber’s chair
May rival gangsters
With ham-fisted Tommy guns burst in
And give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death. 

Summary of Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death

  • Popularity of “Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death”: Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death is a descriptive piece of writing by Roger McGough, one of the famous English poets and writers.It first appeared in Penguin Modern Poets in 1967. The poem unfolds three instances of death the speaker considers quite entertaining. It illustrates how the speaker wants his death to have an element of shock and surprise in it. Although the poem deals with the serious phenomenon of death, the touch of humor and the use of frivolous words and phrases make this piece sound different from other such poems.
  • “Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death” As a Representative of Death: The poem presents the speaker’s desires about his memorable death. It begins with the young speaker announcing that he does not want to have a peaceful death of an elderly person. Instead, he wishes to embrace a chaotic death of a young man. To support his desires, he talks about different stages of life and makes his audience visualize how he aspires to die. He loves to be adventurous until death as he imagines driving a red sports car when he will be seventy-three and will be chronically ill. Next, he imagines shot by a gangster at ninety-one years of age while getting a haircut. After that, he imagines himself as a dotard of 104 years old man. Using sexual imagery, he exhibits the dynamism and strength he has had during his youth period and imagines reliving in later life. Toward the end of the poem, he reinforces the same idea that he does not want his death to be quiet and mournful. Also, he mocks the religious beliefs regarding a pious life and peaceful end and wishes to live a life that ridicules religious practices.  
  • Major Themes in “Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death”: Death, adventurous life, and man versus religion are the major themes of the poem. The young speaker imagines three stages of his life and tells his readers how he intends to react when life and age will throw hurdles in his ways. Instead of viewing death in a negative light, he imagines it to be thrilling, mesmerizing, and memorable. Therefore, he fantasizes to die of a tumor, being shot by a gangster, or being cut up by his mistress. All these examples and the use of powerful diction show that he does not want to die like an ordinary old person. Rather, he wishes to embrace a lethal and shocking kind of death.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death”

literary devices represent the writer’s ideas, feelings, and emotions. Roger McGough has used some literary devices to show his emotions and feelings. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “Let me die a young man’s death” and the sound of /o/ in “and in constant good tumor.”
  2. Alliteration: It means to use consonant sounds as the initials of successive words such as /m/ in “may my mistress.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ in “and fearing for her son” and the sound of /n/ in “and banned from the Cavern.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holy water death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. Roger exaggerates about his death at various instances in the poem such as “cut me up into little pieces/and throw away every piece but one” and “Let me die a youngman’s death/not a free from sin tiptoe.”
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Roger McGough has used imagery in this poem such as “not a curtains drawn by angels borne”, “catching me in bed with her daughter” and “and banned from the Cavern.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. “Bright red sports car” is a symbol of vitality and movement and “death” stands for something exciting and thrilling in this text. Similarly, “holy water death” image of angles and candle wax stand for the death of a righteous person.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “Let me die a young man’s death” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  3. Refrain: The lines repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse “Let me die a youngman’s death” is a refrain due to its repetition.

Quote to be Used

The lines stated below are appropriate to use when talking about different death situations.

“Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holy water death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death.”