One Hundred and Thirty Nine Years of Solitude

My job
My job

Photo owned by Dan4th (cc)

Back in 1992 or 93, I was asked to write a poem to commemorate 139 years of The Christian Brothers School in Gorey. I obliged in the only way I knew how, but of course it wasn’t published. Perhaps it would be now, though it’s far from a masterpiece.
Maybe it was the title?
Anyway, I was rooting through discarded poems and found it. It will never be published elsewhere so I thought I’d put it here.

One Hundred and Thirty Nine Years of Solitude

(CBS Gorey, l854-l993 /past pupil,1967-1971)

I can see now, at the distance
of half a lifetime,
that what I disliked about it
was the absence of women,
their sensual spur to wit
which keeps the intellect entranced.

That’s why Latin was dead:
amo, amas, amat had no object.
Mathematics, too:
it had no pax de deux,
no algebra of the hormones.
Irish was a sex-free zone,
a vital, private part of expression
cut away from a blood-rich tongue.

A Brother told me
that if I read half the books
on science that I did on history
he’d be pleased.
But history had its Lucrezia Borgias,
and English its Louise.

Not for me the Greek ideal
that a man’s intellectual equal
could only be a man,
though I wasn’t aware of this, or of anything.
But some fine teachers had a liking
for intellectual hunger, and passed it on.

Now I can see that like everyone,
I was a product of my time,
as the men who taught me
were products of theirs.
They had a certain certainty
which allayed their fears,
or so it seemed, whereas my conviction
was that nothing was certain –

apart from the beauty of a certain woman.

Perhaps thus a culture evolves,
and amidst such tensions
in small classrooms
a new generation tries to solve
the conundrum of its role,
convinced it will make a better world.

Philip Casey