Lawstudent And Coach

Each day I sit in an ill-lighted room
To teach a boy;
For one hour by the clock great words and dreams
Are our employ.
We read St Agnes' Eve and that more fair
Eve of St Mark
At a small table up against the wall
In the half-dark.
I tell him all the wise things I have read
Concerning Keats.
'His earlier work is overfull of sense
And sensual sweets.'
I tell him all that comes into my mind
From God-knows-where,
Remark, 'In English poets Bertha's type
Is jolly rare.
She's a real girl that strains her eyes to read
And cricks her neck.
Now Madeline could pray all night nor feel
Her body's check.
And Bertha reads, p'rhaps the first reading girl
In English rhyme.'
It's maddening work to say what Keats has said
A second time.
The boy sits sideways with averted head.
His brown cheek glows.
I like his black eyes and his sprawling limbs
And his short nose.
He, feeling, dreads the splendour of the verse,
But he must learn
To write about it neatly and to quote
These lines that burn.
He drapes his soul in my obscuring words,
Makes himself fit
To go into a sunny world and take
His part in it.
'Examiners' point of view, you know,' say I,
'Is commonsense.
You must sift poetry before you can
Sift Evidence.'

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