This week's theme: Bright college days
(Poem #1903) Baccalaureate
A year or two, and grey Euripides, And Horace and a Lydia or so, And Euclid and the brush of Angelo, Darwin on man, Vergilius on bees, The nose and Dialogues of Socrates, Don Quixote, Hudibras and Trinculo, How worlds are spawned and where the dead gods go,-- All shall be shard of broken memories. And there shall linger other, magic things,-- The fog that creeps in wanly from the sea, The rotten harbor smell, the mystery Of moonlit elms, the flash of pigeon wings, The sunny Green, the old-world peace that clings About the college yard, where endlessly The dead go up and down. These things shall be Enchantment of our heart's rememberings. And these are more than memories of youth Which earth's four winds of pain shall blow away; These are earth's symbols of eternal truth, Symbols of dream and imagery and flame, Symbols of those same verities that play Bright through the crumbling gold of a great name.
One of the universals of the "college experience" - and pretty much everyone I know who has attended college agrees with me - is that the actual classroom education is the least part of it. Of course, that's not precisely true; it's just that lectures are seldom the stuff of which memories are made, and therefore loom progressively less significant in nostalgic reveries. Nonetheless, college remains one of life's defining experiences, and it is interesting to see what poets have made of the memories that *do* linger and tint the time thereafter. Today's poem tackles the theme head-on, with MacLeish's characteristically beautiful phrases flowing like a wash of colour over the contrasting aspects of college life. The sequence of images is exquisite; I'm tempted to say that this is a poem that is more about atmosphere than message, but the atmosphere is definitely part of the message here, and the list format works very well indeed. And not just the imagery either - there is a slight weightiness to the language that helps enhance the academic feel, perhaps most evident in the phrase "symboks of those same verities", but present throughout. The other noteworthy thing is the painstaking attention MacLeish pays to the sound of his poetry. With some poets, this is easy to see - the music of the words takes over, and leaps out at the reader. MacLeish's verse is usually more quietly euphonious, but none the less beautiful, and none the less perfect for not being showy. martin p.s. Yes, the theme is named after the Tom Lehrer song. Yes, it will make an appearance. [Links] Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_MacLeish Academy of American Poets: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/47