On First Gazing into Smith's Catullus.

I have taught for years in state and private schools,

and many young aspiring Breughels seen

who, hour by hour, cloaked words behind a screen

of vampires, imps, doomed malcontents and ghouls.

Others had stick-men diving into pools,

or fighting duels, as pages flicked between

their grubby fingers; but never one so keen

as Smith, master of animation's rules.

After only these seven weeks of term

the text is vanished 'neath the demons' play,

and flashing pages make the vision clearer

of pasteled Satan and the Conqueror Worm.

So Fournier, his uncle, found Manet,

or Battersby discovered Namatjira.

 

 

A Ballade of My Students.

The snail ajaunt on cabbage stalk,

the swimmer dozing for his tan,

a fieldmouse hiding from a hawk

which hovers high to slowly scan,

a union stronghold under ban,

the loser of a knockout bout;

each demonstrates the same élan

as 3EF with throttle out.

 

When on the moon the heroes walk,

we see a world which ne'er began,

as lifeless as a piece of chalk;

or pockmarked fat inside the pan;

think of a slug, a mud-bogged van,

a victim hobbled by the gout;

each in its way reminds a man

of 3EF with throttle out.

 

The jumbo-jets which throng New York,

the squealing fear of pigs which ran,

not wishing to be turned to pork,

the loud and drunken football fan,

the shrieking cockatoos which span

the treetops as they wheel about;

none of them more noisy than

our 3EF with throttle out.

 

Prince of the class is he who can,

by whisper, word or outright shout,

upset the teacher. Thus the plan

of 3EF with throttle out.

 

Ballade of an Illusion.

It seems this year will never end,

and peace and quiet once more reign.

Who knows but much of this may send

the calmest mind a bit insane.

Like a putt misjudged against the grain,

I find the going rough and slow.

Oh! If I could confront again

That class I had eight years ago!

 

You sometimes find a perfect blend

of choice tobaccos which retain

a subtle flavour to the end.

Or sometimes you will search in vain

a case of oranges for stain,

each one with purity aglow.

May in my mind they e'er remain,

that class I had eight years ago!

 

Them I could really recommend,

never obtuse, dull, inane;

always competing to extend

abstruse ideas that they found plain.

Does friendly competition reign

today, where working makes a foe?

Oh, may their memory never wane,

that class I had eight years ago!

 

Prince of the class, I had to feign

occasional anger, or a blow.

That was the way I used to train

that class I had eight years ago.

 

 

An occasional verse.

With flaming eye and steaming ears

the teacher gave his ultimatum,

"Our poem stocks are in arrears,

you have ten minutes to create 'em,"

"But, sir," young Jamieson replied,

"there is no message from my muse."

The teacher gave a glance that fried,

creating fluent new abuse.

Since poetry must be supplied

on penalty of being hit,

I'll subjugate artistic pride

and write to orders. This is it.

 

Witch Schooldays.

When I was a young witch, WE had to study!

I was caned if I got there early,

or if my boots weren't muddy.

The teacher liked to see us surly.

We learned the seven deadly sins.

The teacher made us say them fast.

He said we'd only save our skins

by being fundamentally nasty.

Evil is hardly taught today

the way it was when I was young.

The sky turned miserable and grey

when our maths formulae were sung!

This generation loafs - I know

this is a virtue if done well -

but they cannot learn, they are too slow.

They cannot word a spell.

 

Slow Learner.

 

"Oh, Hubert, hang your head in shame,

you poor retarded child.

You do not know an author's name,

and cannot find a reference filed.

Your sister Carrie, three years old,

has learned to read without a fuss,

and laps up Sophocles untold,

and hungers for Aeschylus.

Your brother Waldo, only four,

has only scorn for Henry James,

whose writings erringly explore

what Waldo's mind has passed in games.

Both of these children have their slant

on philosophic problems too.

They sneer at J. S. Mill and Kant,

feeling that each has made a "blue".

Yet you at two have still to find

your way among the literary

paths, and do not know your mind,

still on metaphysics wary.

Oh, start with Thackeray or Trollope,

or Edgar Wallace; even Sapper.

Just so you have a healthy dollop

of novel-writing in your napper!"

 

"My mother loving, read I will,

and Scott and Conrad glad peruse,

but these diversions miss the thrill

I find in other avenues.

Is the universe quite round,

or negatively curved, or what?

Will smaller particles be found?

Does astatine exist, or not?

I cannot synthesize protein,

or factorize a number made

of sixty-one times one, or glean

full answers to all games e'er played.

Topology I have not solved.

Problems still my mind infest.

My mind will, when no more involved,

relax in sloth, as you suggest."