Monday, February 16, 2009

"Development" by Robert Browning

I read this poem for the first time yesterday. I love its message about teaching. If you're familiar with the Iliad it will make more sense, but even if you're not, the point comes through.

by Robert Browning

My Father was a scholar and knew Greek.
When I was five years old, I asked him once
"What do you read about?"
                                                  "The siege of Troy."
"What is a siege and what is Troy?"
He piled up chairs and tables for a town,
Set me a-top for Priam, called our cat
---Helen, enticed away from home (he said)
By wicked Paris, who couched somewhere close
Under the footstool, being cowardly,
But whom---since she was worth the pains, poor puss---
Towzer and Tray,---our dogs, the Atreidai,---sought
By taking Troy to get possession of
---Always when great Achilles ceased to sulk,
(My pony in the stable)---forth would prance
And put to flight Hector---our page-boy's self.
This taught me who was who and what was what:
So far I rightly understood the case
At five years old: a huge delight it proved
And still proves---thanks to that instructor sage
My Father, who knew better than turn straight
Learning's full flare on weak-eyed ignorance,
Or, worse yet, leave weak eyes to grow sand-blind,
Content with darkness and vacuity.

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