Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Dunce


At school I never gained a prize,
Proving myself the model ass;
Yet how I watched the wistful eyes,
And cheered my mates who topped the class.
No envy in my heart I found,
Yet bone was worthier to own
Those precious books in vellum bound,
Than I, a dreamer and a drone.

No prize at school I ever gained
(Shirking my studies, I suppose):
Yes, I remember being caned
For lack of love of Latin prose.
For algebra I won no praise,
In grammar I was far from bright:
Yet, oh, how Poetry would raise
In me a rapture of delight!

I never gained a prize at school;
The dullard's cap adorned my head;
My masters wrote me down a fool,
And yet - I'm sorry they are dead.
I'd like to go to them and say:
"Yours is indeed a tricky trade.
My honoured classmates, where are they?
Yet I, the dunce, brave books have made."

Oh, I am old and worn and grey,
And maybe have not long to live;
Yet 'tis my hope at some Prize Day
At my old school the Head will give
A tome or two of mine to crown
Some pupil's well-deserved success -
Proving a scapegrace and a clown
May win at last to worthiness.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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