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Nov. 25, 1997

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Barbauld's Imitators

The following poems were written by students of ENL 3230 British Literature from 1616-1780. Their assignment was to follow the eighteenth-century advice on imitation and try to turn one of its poems to a contemporary issue. The results were entertaining and enlightening. Enjoy!


Muses! relinquish your laurels over
To the lauded lords of Literature;
My burden is great as the sky is tall-
I must compose a poem this term Fall.
Come Dryden; come Pope; come Milton and Steele,
Give my pen fine ink, my words mass appeal.
Deliver your Talents so that I may
Live victorious through the Writing-Day.
- We, who beneath the crooked lamp compose,
Hope the rhyme none reflects our true morose.
Soon the house will be thrown into turmoil,
The cats will hide and the children recoil
From the red-eyed, sad, yet hopeful student
Who dreams of proclaiming - "Call me Poet!"
We appraoach the pen, summoning Great Locke:
Guard our brains from the dreaded writer's block.
Barbauld's misery is a league away
From knowing that grave block on writing-day.
- Protect my better-half, who praises me able,
From setting a warm lunch on the table
Choked with thesaurus, dictionary, books,
Pens, paper, and my ╬poet's' scornful looks.
Still in bed clothes, slippers on, uncomb'd hair,
Supper now appraoaches, but do I dare
Leave the awful draft half done and retreat
To the bathroom or get a scrap to eat?
- I said, then a kid: I want to write.
Friends, and Parents too, thought my fancy trite.
But teachers engaged me with Steinbeck, Twain,
Exupery, Kipling, Carol, and Milne.
Their worlds drew me close, enveloping me;
The dreams in their fine books, I could now be:
Cowboy, Runaway, a lone Little Prince,
Jungle Boy, Petite Girl, Bear on a fence.
Now I marvel at why the Block must be
So common, when the mind's dreaming runs free.

R. Steele 97'