Oxford v. Cambridge v. Birmingham etc

Tom Paulin

Under a stony sun, a slabbed fate,
there is a paved land
called nothing-original
which is the home – the near-buried home –
of scholarship and humility;
there the god of Notes & Queries
takes up our references
and a silver priest called Maxwell
sings everything in the catalogues.
This is karma, acceptance;
a bent harijan brushing dung
and shards in a walled courtyard.
But who can tell the puritan
or the man who fucks texts
that the green sappiness of life
has no more to do
with art, style, or a formal joy,
than the warty skin a kid rips
from a smelly, smashed elder-branch?
Now that the academies are switching
into self-destruct and gibberwick
I’ve fallen in love again
with a rich old library
and those darkblue bindings;
I’m bending the knee now
to letter and copy-text,
the fine print of the spirit.