Ode to Tawes Hall

As read by Professor Maynard (Sandy) Mack
Tawes Hall Grand Opening Ceremony
September 10, 2009     


As most of you know, our Department is enriched by the presence of several very fine poets. One of whom has recently written a very, very fine biography. Of the very, very, very fine poet, John Keats. As Stan Plumly’s students were packing up his books and papers in preparation for the move to Tawes, one of our alert graduate students found a document misplaced underneath a huge pile of papers used by Stan in preparing his Posthumous Keats. A document clearly in Keats’ handwriting and clearly on early 19th century paper. A document obviously intended for inclusion in Stan’s book that somehow got away. A pre-“Posthumous Keats” poem. It is another of the great Keats odes, like those to a Nightingale, to Autumn, and the spectacular “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” This one legibly titled, “Ode on a REstored Tawes.” In his romantic genius, Keats anticipated our gathering here today. To mark the reopening of Tawes Hall, the splendid new home of the English Department, here in its first public reading since I heard it wafting out of a tiny garret onto the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1820: John Keats’ Ode on a REstored Tawes.


Thou still unravished Tawes now new restored
Thou foster-child of Regents and good times,
Sylvan historian, who can well express
Liter’ry tales more sweetly than our rhymes:
What hideous memories haunt about thy shape
Of Theatre, Music, and RTVF,
In Kirwan years or days of Daniel Mote?
What men or gods worked here? What maidens loth?
What mad research? What struggle to survive?
What hires and firings? What wild ecstasy?

All salaries are sweet; unfurloughed ones
Are sweeter; therefore, merit pay, return—
Not for our sensual ears, but, needed most,
Come to the youngest faculty, the “kids”:
Fair youth, untenured yet, thou canst not leave
Thy work, nor ever darest to leave your vita bare.
Bold Chairman, never, never canst thou quit
Though longing for a break—yet do not grieve;
Thou canst not fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever will thou work…of Venice dream!

Ah, happy, happy staff! that cannot shed
Your cares, nor PRD ere bid adieu;
PWP, and those Creative Types,
For ever piping songs for ever new.
More happy classes! more happy, happy classes!
For ever warm and still to be taught well,
For ever teaching the forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
From CourseEvalUm, high-sorrowful--
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these come to our Grand Opening?
To what green altar, Theresa and Kent,
Lead thou our Nicole lowing at the skies,
And with her Shawn, Abby, Katie, Isabella?
What disc’pline groups in post tenure review,
Assessment-built with delayed F.A.R,
Are emptied of their folk, this pious day?
Grad students, thy pens now evermore will be
Fast flowing sure; but not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate—stipends so low!

O attic shape! Fair altitude! High offices
For noble men and women overworked,
Groaning bookcases, ere-switched-on PCs!
Thou, silent Tawes, dost tease us from Despair,
As doth a parody. Cold Pastoral!
When old ages shall this department waste,
Tawes shall remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, to tell a new department, lesser sure,
“Duty is truth, truth duty—that is all
Ye know in Tawes, and all ye need to know.”