No longer looking to the past,
That time that, distant, dwindles,
Syntactic glue’s unsticking fast
When we are on our Kindles.
You wonder where the Fellows went
Who can’t read Crime and Punishment.
The prepositions come and go,
The verbs and nouns may change:
The nineteenth-prose is slow,
Mysterious and strange:
The ‘classics’ are beset by moth.
Too many books may spoil the broth.
If Michael Gove is reading this,
I hope he feels a fool
For thinking that our culture’s kiss
Is what he read in school:
We do not need to drown or revel
In Michael’s Ordinary Level,
No more than Andrew Lansley, patron
Of the NHS
Should make us hanker for a matron
He met in childishness.
I see them, side by side, in bleachers,
Inveighing at the nurses, teachers.
When we read, or when we’re sick,
Or when our tides are out,
We do not need their great red tick
On what we are about.
The world retracts, returns, reverses.
Spare us, both, your careless curses.
When they’re prescribed, both books and pills,
Our shoulders shan’t be felt.
Because we pass on Fielding’s thrills,
We don’t deserve the belt.
You wonder what they’ll call a classic
When our age is the new Jurassic.