Awake, My Lute!

I STOOD in the gloom of a spacious room
Where I listened for hours (on and off)
To a terrible bore with a beard like a snore
And a heavy rectangular cough,
Who discoursed on the habits of orchids and rabbits
And how an electron behaves
And a way to cure croup with solidified soup
In a pattern of circular waves;
Till I suddenly spied that what stood at his side
Was a richly upholstered baboon
With paws like the puns in a poem of Donne’s
And a tail like a voyage to the Moon.
Then I whispered “Look out! For I very much doubt
If your colleague is really a man.”
But the lecturer said, without turning his head,
“Oh, that’s only the Beverage Plan!”
As one might have foreseen, the whole sky became green
At this most injudicious remark,
For the Flood had begun and we both had to run
For our place in the queue to the Ark.
Then, I hardly knew how (we were swimming by now),
The sea got all covered with scum
Made of publishers’ blurbs and irregular verbs
Of the kind which have datives in -um;
And the waves were so high that far up in the sky
We saw the grand lobster, and heard
How he snorted, “Compare the achievements of Blair
With the grave of King Alfred the Third,
And add a brief note and if possible quote,
And distinguish and trace and discuss
The probable course of a Methodist horse
When it’s catching a decimal buss.”
My answer was Yes. But they marked it N.S.,1
And a truffle-fish grabbed at my toe,
And dragged me deep down to a bombulous town
Where the traffic was silent and slow.
Then a voice out of heaven observed, “Quarter past seven!”
And I threw all the waves off my head,
For that voice beyond doubt was the voice of my scout,2
And the bed of that sea was my bed.
  1. N. S. stands for Non satis (not enough), the mark given by Oxford examiners to a question on which the candidate has failed.
  2. A “scout" is a college servant.