Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Frightening Poem (in more ways than one)

 Beloved readers, I have returned unto the blog!  This week is a week full of craziness, with much grading, and writing of conference papers, and removing of wild animals from one's basement, so naturally there are sleep disturbances, and in one of these I dreamed that my Provost, who is a very good provost and not evil or covered in black feathers at all, came to my office and recited the works of Edgar Allan Poe to me until I started crying.

I don't know what that means, but it can't be good.

Since this beloved provost is retiring this summer, I decided turn my torment into his torment and compose a little poem in his honor.  Sort of.  Anyway, for your enjoyment and/or horror, I present:

The Provost
A Poem Not by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midday dreary, while I graded, weak and weary,
Reading many a quaint and curious phrases of misassembled lore—
    While I jotted, deeply sighing, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
“’Tis some lost student,” I muttered, “tapping at my office door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in a bleak semester;
And each graded research paper floated heavy to the floor.
    Desperately I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From facebook surcease of headache—headache at this endless chore—
At the bare and empty grading which professors deem a chore—
            Endless here for evermore.

    And the limping, sad, pretentious plodding of each purple sentence
Killed me—filled me with outrageous comments never made before;
    So that now, to still the bleeding of my pen, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some student entreating final grades at my office door—
Some late student entreating final grades at my office door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your fine patience I implore;
    But the fact is I was grading, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            My provost there and nothing more.

    Deep into his dark eyes peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, fearing fears professors never dared to fear before;
    But his silence was unbroken, and his gaze it gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken were the whispered words, “What more?”
These I whispered, and an echo murmured back the words, “What, more!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into my office turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is someone at the copy machine;
      Let me see, then, who thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis a colleague, nothing more!”

    Downward here I closed my laptop, with its classic Star Trek backdrop.
In there stepped my stately provost of the harried days of yore;
    Not the least kind greeting made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, leaned into my office door—
Leaned upon a wooden bookcase just aside my office door—
            Leaned, and looked, and nothing more.

Then this academic dean beguiling my rattled nerves into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore,
“Though thy time here has ended almost, thou,” I said, “art still our headmost,
Leader grim and ancient Provost wandering Old Main's second floor—
Tell me how long I must keep reading hellish prose that I abhore!”
            Quoth the Provost: “Evermore.”

    Much I marvelled this elevated scholar to hear my future plainly,
Though his answer little respite—little comfort for me bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with such a provost leaning in her office door—
Dean or provost at the wooden bookcase right aside her office door,
            Singing her fate as “Evermore.”

    But the Provost, leaning lonely on that bookcase, spoke only
That one word, as if my life in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not an eyebrow then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other papers graded I before—
On the morrow they will be graded, as those papers I've done before.”
            Then the dean said “Nevermore.”

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what he utters is his joke, no more!
    Caught in some unhappy humor with a bad and thoughtless rumor
    Followed by a bleak sarcasm till his words a cruel joke bore—
Till the dirges of my hope that melancholy jokester bore
            Grading's end 'nevermore’.”

    But the Provost still beguiling my rattled nerves into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a squeaking desk chair in front of dean, and books and door;
    Then, upon the leather sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this academic dean of yore—
What this grim, unsmiling, ghastly, gaunt, academic dean of yore
            Meant in claiming: “Nevermore.”

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the dean whose glowing cell phone hummed with calls he did ignore;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head all cricked, reclining
    On the desk chair's leather lining that the desk-light flickered o’er,
But whose cracking leather lining with the desk-light flickered o’er,
            Ink shall press, no, nevermore!

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by alumni whose foot-falls echoed on the tiled floor.
    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy Board hath sent thee—by these lost ghosts it hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and retirement from thy grading chores of yore;
Go, oh go to thy retirement and forget my ungraded papers on my office floor!”
            Quoth the Provost:  “Nevermore.”

    “Provost!” said I, “thing of evil!—provost still, if dean or devil!—
Whether by Board sent, or whether committee sent thee to my door,
    Smirking here as well undaunted, by ungraded papers haunted—
    At this desk by grading haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there rest in summer?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
            Quoth the Provost:  “Nevermore.”

    “Provost!” said I, “thing of evil!—provost still, if dean or devil!
By that August that stretches before us—by that Sun we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant future,
    I shall clasp a gin and tonic when I'm finished with this chore—
Clasp a tall, cold gin and tonic when I'm finished with this chore.”
            Quoth the Provost “Nevermore.”

    “Be that word our sign of parting, dean or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into retirement and thy sunny, bright relaxing shores!
    Leave no learning outcome as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my fantasies unbroken!—quit the bookcase near my door!
Take thy pen from out my heart, and take thy form without my door!”
            Quoth the Provost: “Nevermore.”

    And the Provost, never stirring, still is leaning, still is leaning
At the wooden bookcase just beside my office door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the desk-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out those papers that lie floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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