Collegia – Ode 47: The Killer


A College Cantata
(With Greek Chorus)

CHORUS: Hide thee, Joey, in thy cover,
Grim Bill wants thy barren hand;
We are flesh but thou a skeleton,
And we do not understand
What thy sex is,
We can only wonder more.

Open not the wooden coffin
Where we keep thee hidden low;
Let not fiery rowdy Pinder
Rifle thee so he can know;
Wronged for ever
Thou wouldst be if thus revealed.

When we come to urge and goad on
Shepherd in his easy stride;
Hear us through the swelling tumult,
But within thy case abide:
Stony faces
We will ever give to thee.

SHEPHERD: In chemmy lab abiding,
No ribaldry I fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For no-one gets in here
Unnoticed or without me,
And though the plot is laid,
I see Art men about me,
Yet I am not dismayed.

CHORUS: A king of love our Shepherd is,
Whose brain is failing never;
He’s not a fool and knows his biz,
But cannot make us clever.

SHEPHERD: Sometimes a few surprises
A lecturer while he waits:
Oh, where are all the spies, sirs,
That cluster at the gates?
When numbers are declining
We surely count again:
They needn’t come here whining
If late; I’ll give ‘em pain.

CHORUS: There are only four to gather
While the hours are going by,
In this lovely summer weather,
While the hours are going by.

SHEPHERD: Tell them it is time
For my talk to start,
Surely it’s a crime
To keep from us apart.
Look out in the quad, sir,
To see if they will come.
If they don’t by gad, sir,
I will strike their – hum!

CHORUS: Time like an ever-snoring dream
Wears all our days away;
They crawl with never a curse or scream
Beneath these cloisters grey.

SHEPHERD: It is the old old story,
They’re late, they’re late again.
I shall be old and hoary
Before my words are plain.

CHORUS: Tell me the old old story
Of naughty lies again;
Of how they tried to get before he
Began the lecture strain.

SHEPHERD: Hark, hark, mice all; discordant songs are swell
From the grey quad and cloister’s ringing flee
How sweet the truth if that’s what they are tell
When they explain why they were not before.
Ain’t they just geezers, ain’t they just right,
Singing as if they thought we’re here for the night.

CHORUS: Hark! the glad sound, the remainder comes,
The remainder waited long.
Let every youth prepare his tomes,
And list to Shepherd’s tongue.

SHEPHERD: Keep us not, O gracious Beesley,
Hello, Chuck, I cry;
Webber, too, I’m not mistaken;
Carter, why, oh why?
Students, students,
Hear my humble cry;
You have kept the others waiting;
Why, my men, oh why?

QUARTETTE: From Lincoln’s only mountain,
From Melton’s pork-pie strand,
From where the Brighton fountain
Leaps by the golden sand;
From near the Scottish boarder,
Where Tynesiders rejoice;
We come to sit in order,
And listen to your voice.

CHORUS: Come, ye thankful students, come,
Raise the song of far-off home;
All are safely gathered in
Ere our Shepherd’s words begin.
He our tutor doth provide
For our brains to be supplied
With the data we shall need
When we to th’Exam room speed.

SHEPHERD: Good even. Here the subject set
Catalysis, good grief, I say.
Oh, with what dunces are we met;
Oh with what learning go away.

CHUCK: What a cat that Alice is
All that paint and rouge she wears!
What a prim young thing to carry
Everything with haughty airs.

WEBBER: Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain to bear:
All because we cannot marry
Little Alice oh so fair.

CHORUS: My girl, is any flower so sweet
From blush of brow to golden hair,
From ruby lip to dainty feet,
As Alice fair?

No words can tell what sweet delight
Here for our every sense we find:
What strength for warfare, tools for fight,
In Alice find!

BEESLEY: I am a stranger here,
Latin is my home;
Sci. is a desert drear,
Art fills my dome.

SHEPHERD: I lay my bones on the table,
The spotted chemmy bench.
From there, as I am able,
I’ll lecture, not on French.
I swing my cue at blackboard
Pointing to my chalk marks,
I don’t think you’ll be that bored,
At least, no he that harks.

NICK: Speak them never again to me,
Shepherd, those words of thine!
Let me no more thy visage see,
No more to hear thee whine.
If you keep so snooty,
Shepherd, I will shoot ‘ee
With my black gun, beautiful gun,
Wonderful stopper of life!

Stand up, hands up, O Shepherd,
You’re not my giddy boss.
I think I’ll have you peppered,
I cannot care a toss.

CHORUS: Come on, O Shepherd tutor,
Prepare to meet your fate;
Come face the little shooter;
We fear that you’ll be late.

NICK: Lead, little gun, from out your little spout,
Speed surely on.
The days are dark, and I am far from Trout,
He’d best be gone.
On you the morn will angel faces smile
Which you might find much better than ours vile.

(Nick shoots Shepherd dead.)

BEESLEY: Master, speak! the dense fog cleareth,
Tell us you are still alive.
Speak in thy sweet voice that cheereth,
In this act did none connive.
I arrest thee, Nicky boy.
Give to me that lethal toy.

CHORUS: Stiffened is our Shepherd,
Flowing every tear;
Bedded in his bosom
In the bullet drear;
Just a piece of metal,
Just a piece of lead;
But our Shepherd’s silent,
Stiff and stark and dead!

CHUCK: So our meeting here is ended,
Studyward our steps we turn,
Let not hearts be torn or rended,
We must all our lesson learn.

WEBBER: There is here a love almighty,
And a most benignant power;
But we must go now to supper,
For it is the supper hour.

NICK: Let the word go round the Coll,
Nicky did not know,
That the gun was loaded; joll-
y careless I’ll allow.
Every student in this place
Save poor Nicky from disgrace.

CHORUS: We hear a thousand voices saying,
“Nick Carter is no murderer!”
But for your soul we will start praying,
Lest ‘tis carried furtherer.
Keep up your lip, and grit your teeth,
To prison cell be not averse;
Just gloat upon the corpse beneath
And oaken lid, stretched in a hearse.

BEESLEY: Tell me the ghost of old Joey
I cannot see;
But moving box-lid doth show he
Comes out slowly.
Bones of the cadaver,
Bones dry and white,
Like nothing whatever
In pale moonlight.

JOEY: Infernal Shepherd, in your grave
I’ve often wished you; I’m a slave.
Who bidst me in my box to sleep
And would not let me have a peep.
Nick Carter did not shoot the prof;
‘Twas I. I willed the beggar off.

CHORUS: Oh Skeleton of awe and power,
For Nick to shield in danger’s hour
Was really swell. Accept our thanks,
Forgive us for our boyish pranks.
Now hope this question, will not vex,
Please tell us, won’t you, what’s your sex?

(With a shriek the skeleton falls back into box)

BEESLEY: Now clear this room and scatter,
A good feed’s near at hand.
Pretend it doesn’t matter;
That’s my express command.
And when we go to supper
No more of food complain;
Or else you’ll come a crupper,
I’ll tell what I have seen.

CHORUS: All good gifts surround us
Our tutors all we love;
Then thank the lord we’re not here long,
But fly with the wings of a dove.
Little words of kindness,
Little acts of grace,
Make this College pleasant,
Like a heavenly place.
Ah, men! Ah, men!

12. 6. 1928