Wednesday, January 03, 2018


A Terrible Bullshit Is Born

Ted Pauker, i.e. Robert Conquest (1917-2015), "A Grouchy Good Night to the Academic Year," The Penguin Book of Light Verse (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980; rpt. 1984), pp. 506-510:
(with acknowledgements to W.M.P.)

Good night to the year Academic,
It finally crept to a close:
Dry fact about physic and chemic,
Wet drip about people and prose.
Emotion was down to a snivel
And reason was pulped to a pap,
Sociologists droning out drivel
And critics all croaking out crap.
For any such doctrine is preachable
In our tolerant Temple of Thought
Where lads that are largely unteachable
Learn subjects that cannot be taught.

Good night to the Session — portentous
Inside the Vice-Chancellor's gown,
The personage who'll represent us
To Public and Party and Crown.
By enthusing for nitwitted novelty
He wheedles the moment'ry Great,
And at influence-dinner or grovel-tea
Further worsens the whims of the State.
So it is that, however much we rage,
The glibber of heart and of tongue
Build ladders to reach a life-peerage
From the buzz-sawed-up brains of the young.

Good night to the Session — the Chaplain,
Progressive and Ritualist too,
Who refers to the role of the apple in
Eden as 'under review'.
When the whole situation has ripened
Of his temporal hopes these are chief:
A notable increase in stipend,
And the right to abandon belief.
Meanwhile, his sermons: 'The Wafer —
Is it really the Presence of God?'
'Is the Pill or the French Letter Safer?'
And, 'Does the Biretta look Mod?'

Good night to the Session — what Art meant,
Or Science, no longer seemed plain,
But our new Education Department
Confuses confusion again.
'Those teach who can't do' runs the dictum,
But for some even that's out of reach:
They can't even teach — so they've picked 'em
To teach other people to teach.
Then alas for the next generation,
For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.
Where psychology meets education
A terrible bullshit is born.

Good night to the Session — the students
So eager to put us all right,
Whose conceit might have taken a few dents
But that ploughing's no longer polite;
So the essays drop round us in torrents
Of jargon a mouldering mound,
All worrying weakly at Lawrence,
All drearily pounding at Pound;
And their knowledge would get them through no test
On Ghana or Greece or Vietnam,
But they've mugged up enough for a Protest
— An easyish form of exam.

Good night to the Session — so solemn,
'Truth' and 'Freedom' their crusader crests,
One hardly knows quite what to call 'em
These children with beards or with breasts.
When from State or parental Golcondas
Treasure trickles to such little boys
They spend it on reefers and Hondas
— That is, upon sweeties and toys;
While girls of delicious proportions
Are thronging the Clinic's front stair,
Some of them seeking abortions
And some a psychiatrist's care.

Good night to the Session — the politics,
So noisy, and nagging, and null.
You can tell how the time-bomb of Folly ticks
By applying your ear to their skull;
Of course, that is only a metaphor,
But they have their metaphors too,
Such as 'Fascist', that's hardly the better for
Being used of a liberal and Jew
— The Prof. of Applied Aeronautics,
For failing such students as try,
With LSD lapping their cortex,
To fub up a fresh way to fly.

Good night to the Session — the Union:
The speeches with epigram packed,
So high upon phatic communion,
So low upon logic and fact.
(Those epigrams? — Oh well, at any rate
By now we're all quite reconciled
To a version that's vastly degenerate
From the Greek, via Voltaire and Wilde.)
Then the bold resolutions devoted
To the praise of a party or state
In this context most obviously noted
For its zeal in destroying debate.

Good night to the Session — the sculpture:
A jelly containing a clock
Where they say, 'From the way that you gulped you're
Therapeutically thrilled by the shock!'
— It's the Shock of, alas, Recognition
At what's yearly presented as new
Since first seen at Duchamps' exhibition
'Des Maudits', in Nineteen-O-Two.
But let's go along to the Happening,
Where an artist can really unwind,
Stuff like 'Rapists should not take the rap' penning
In gamboge on a model's behind.

Good night to the Session — a later
Will come — and the freshmen we'll get!
Their pretensions will be even greater,
Their qualifications worse yet.
— But don't be too deeply depressible
At obtuseness aflame for applause;
The louts that are loudest in decibel
Melt away in post-graduate thaws.
Don't succumb to an anger unreasoned!
Most students are charming, and bright;
And even some dons are quite decent ...
But good night to the Session, good night!
Inspired by Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802-1839), "Good-Night to the Season."

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