Guest poem sent in by Priscilla Jebaraj
(Poem #1905) A School Song
"Let us now praise famous men"-- Men of little showing-- For their work continueth, And their work continueth, Greater than their knowing. Western wind and open surge Tore us from our mothers; Flung us on a naked shore (Twelve bleak houses by the shore! Seven summers by the shore!) 'Mid two hundred brothers. There we met with famous men Set in office o'er us. And they beat on us with rods-- Faithfully with many rods-- Daily beat us on with rods-- For the love they bore us! Out of Egypt unto Troy-- Over Himalaya-- Far and sure our bands have gone-- Hy-Brasil or Babylon, Islands of the Southern Run, And cities of Cathaia! And we all praise famous men-- Ancients of the College; For they taught us common sense--- Tried to teach us common sense-- Truth and God's Own Common Sense Which is more than knowledge! Each degree of Latitude Strung about Creation Seeth one (or more) of us, (Of one muster all of us-- Of one master all of us--) Keen in his vocation. This we learned from famous men Knowing not its uses When they showed in daily work Man must finish off his work-- Right or wrong, his daily work- And without excuses. Servants of the staff and chain, Mine and fuse and grapnel-- Some before the face of Kings, Stand before the face of Kings; Bearing gifts to divers Kings-- Gifts of Case and Shrapnel. This we learned from famous men Teaching in our borders. Who declare'd it was best, Safest, easiest and best-- Expeditious, wise and best-- To obey your orders. Some beneath the further stars Bear the greater burden. Set to serve the lands they rule, (Save he serve no man may rule) Serve and love the lands they rule; Seeking praise nor guerdon. This we learned from famous men Knowing not we learned it. Only, as the years went by-- Lonely, as the years went by-- Far from help as years went by Plainer we discerned it. Wherefore praise we famous men Prom whose bays we borrow-- They that put aside Today-- All the joys of their Today-- And with toil of their Today Bought for us Tomorrow! Bless and praise we famous men Men of little showing! For their work continueth And their work continueth Broad and deep continueth Great beyond their knowing!
I'm not sure this qualifies for the theme -- it's the introductory poem to Kipling's school story "Stalky and Co", but the school IS called the College :) (If you don't want to use it for this theme, why not save it up for Teacher's Day on September 5?) [Works for me - it fits the theme in spirit, at least - martin] I must admit I'm submitting the poem largely because I loved the book. I remember discovering it during my own college days...fed up of exams and literary criticism essays, I was rummaging through WCC's dusty and unorganised fiction library looking for something light and entertaining when I found "Stalky and Co". I laughed my way through the antics of Stalky, Beetle and M'Turk, sparing hardly a thought for their poor teachers. Interesting, then, that the opening lines of the book are a paean to those same teachers. To me, they seem idealistic in a way the book is not. But I've realised the truth of some of it now...while I feel none of the sheer affection for my college professors that I did for elementary school teachers for example, it's certainly true that I did learn so many things from them without even realising it: This we learned from famous men Knowing not we learned it. And certainly my favourite teachers were those who... ...taught us common sense--- Tried to teach us common sense-- Truth and God's Own Common Sense Which is more than knowledge! I like the rhythm of the poem without being able to explain why (obviously, I remember little of the lectures which attempted to teach me such basics of poetry appreciation!) Stalky and Co is rather different from the typical school story, both the schoolboy tales of its own time or the more modern schoolgirl exploits I devoured in middle school. Here's an essay that explores both the negative and positive aspects of those differences and provides quite a good background to the book: http://www.kipling.org.uk/rg_stalky_intro.htm#top I'm just quoting an excerpt from it here: Stalky & Co. is the only school story which shows school as a direct preparation for life. Most others actually make the world outside school seem irrelevant, an anticlimax, an unimaginable void. Kipling, for all his intense feeling for the school atmosphere and the moods of adolescence, shows school as the first stage of a much larger game, a pattern-maker for the experiences of life. This is mainly what makes it unlike the others, with their narrow, school-centred preoccupations and their belief, often implied and sometimes even stated, in the overwhelming importance of this preliminary stage of life, which was actually presumed to outdo the rest in importance. In Kipling, not only is a later life envisaged very clearly at school, but the divisions between school and the world outside are less clearly defined than they are in most other school stories; not just in the sense that the boys make free with the surrounding countryside and hobnob happily with the locals, bilingual in standard English and broad Devon, but in a metaphorical sense: school teaches lessons (obviously), but, less obviously, the lessons are much more than those of the classroom. It teaches the boys how to live..." And while this link between school/college and life is made clear in the last chapter (a kind of epilogue that traces the later imperialistic careers of its main characters), it's foreshadowed in this introductory poem as well. Priscilla