Friday, October 31, 2008

The Gloomy Academic by Louis MacNeice


Sappho and Alcaeus by Alma-Tadema, 1881

The Gloomy Academic
by Louis MacNeice

The Glory that was Greece: put it in a syllabus, grade it

Page by page

To train the mind or even to point a moral

For the present age:

Models of logic and lucidity, dignity, sanity,

The golden mean between opposing ills...

But I can do nothing so useful or so simple;

These dead are dead

And when I should remember the paragons of Hellas

I think instead

Of the crooks, the adventurers, the opportunists,

The careless athletes and the fancy boys,

The hair-splitters, the pedants, the hard-boiled sceptics

And the Agora and the noise

Of the demagogues and the quacks; and the women pouring

Libations over graves

And the trimmers at Delphi and the dummies at Sparta and lastly

I think of the slaves.

And how one can imagine oneself among them

I do not know;

It was all so unimaginably different

And all so long ago.

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