“In a Lecture-Room”

A poetic, anti-pedantic rotten apple for the teacher, courtesy of Amory Blaine:

“Good-morning, Fool…
Three times a week
You hold us helpless while you speak,
Teasing our thirsty souls with the
Sleek ‘yeas’ of your philosophy…
Well, here we are, your hundred sheep,
Tune up, play on, pour forth … we sleep…
You are a student, so they say;
You hammered out the other day
A syllabus, from what we know
Of some forgotten folio;
You’d sniffled through an era’s must,
Filling your nostrils up with dust,
And then, arising from your knees,
Published, in one gigantic sneeze…
But here’s a neighbor on my right,
An Eager Ass, considered bright;
Asker of questions…. How he’ll stand,
With earnest air and fidgy hand,
After this hour, telling you
He sat all night and burrowed through
Your book…. Oh, you’ll be coy and he
Will simulate precosity,
And pedants both, you’ll smile and smirk,
And leer, and hasten back to work….

‘Twas this day week, sir, you returned
A theme of mine, from which I learned
(Through various comment on the side
Which you had scrawled) that I defied
The highest rules of criticism
For cheap and careless witticism….
‘Are you quite sure that this could be?’
And
‘Shaw is no authority!’
But Eager Ass, with what he’s sent,
Plays havoc with your best per cent.

Still—still I meet you here and there…
When Shakespeare’s played you hold a chair,
And some defunct, moth-eaten star
Enchants the mental prig you are…
A radical comes down and shocks
The atheistic orthodox?
You’re representing Common Sense,
Mouth open, in the audience.
And, sometimes, even chapel lures
That conscious tolerance of yours,
That broad and beaming view of truth
(Including Kant and General Booth…)
And so from shock to shock you live,
A hollow, pale affirmative…

The hour’s up … and roused from rest
One hundred children of the blest
Cheat you a word or two with feet
That down the noisy aisle-ways beat…
Forget on narrow-minded earth
The Mighty Yawn that gave you birth.”

“In a Lecture-Room”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise

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