A poem

To a Friend, on Her Examination for the Doctorate in English

After these years of lectures heard,
Of papers read, of hopes deferred,
Of days spent in the dark stacks
In learning the impervious facts
So well you can dispense with them,
Now that the final day has come
When you shall answer name and date
Where fool and scholar judge your fate
What have you gained?
A learned grace
And lines of knowledge on the face,
A spirit weary but composed
By true perceptions well-disposed,
A soft voice and historic phrase
Sounding the speech of Tudor days,
What ignorance cannot assail
Or daily novelty amaze,
Knowledge enforced by firm detail.
What revels will these trials entail,
What gentle wine confuse your head
While gossip lingers on the dead
Till all the questions wash away,
For you have learned, not what to say,
but how the saying must be said.


            -- J.V. Cunningham