Though dead since living memory runneth not to the contrary
Professor Longfellow tries to keep up with modern poetry
Reading it in English, French, German, Italian, Greek
And Proto-Uralian, which is not really a language
But a conjuration of parti-colored singing molluscs.
If Harvard summons him back (he was chairman
Of the Department of Modern Languages) he intends
To begin lecturing as if his death in 1882 was merely
A species of inconvenience.
He cannot keep up and so has only recently reached
The Collected Poems of Babette Deutch, published
In 1969 by Doubleday & Company, Garden City, NY.
He enjoyed the pale old men playing chess by a squalid window
And thought he could have done something with her three nuns
Listening to Chopin. On the whole, he approved. Then, conscientious
As he always was and still is, to the extent that he is anything now,
He read the front and back blurbs and was startled to see his name
In her brief biography: “She was composing verse before
She could write, and likes to recall that in primary school
She preferred Blake to Longfellow.”
Did she sit, then, by an old mirror whose glass was thick
At the bottom and thin at the top, sifting memories,
For a young interviewer and, with a smile, saying “Yes,
It is quite true; even in primary school I preferred Blake
To Longfellow?” Perhaps she worked it into bedtime stories
For her two children, five grandchildren and the one great-grandchild
Who hastily had himself born just in time to get a look-in’
In her obituary on the New York Times of November 15, 1982:
“Then the clever child led the prince, the porringer, the pedagogue
And the enchanted pump-handle back to the palace, telling them
That, though still a girl in primary school, she had decided
That Henry Longfellow could not hold a candle to William Blake.
And they all lived happily ever after.”