There was this amazing English Professor at the college Garbanzo and I attended. He was fucking brilliant. The first time you take a class with him, you are blown away by this man and how he conducts himself.
The class I took was English Lit. He walked into the classroom, took his shoes off at the door, held up Norton’s Anthology of English Literature volume 1 and said “This is a canon – what the fuck does that mean?”
Everyone looked at each other. So, he asked again, “People, what the fuck is a canon?”
Then he answered his own question, “A canon is a collection of works written for aristocratic white straight men, published by aristocratic white straight men, to be read by aristocratic straight men. That is a fucking canon.”
While Stephen could be gruff in his classroom, he really loved teaching. If a paper was due on a Saturday, he would have the students drop it by his house for drinks. Stephen is responsible for Garbanzo’s love of a good gin & tonic.
Stephen was also pretty blunt when a poem was about sex. And, this one will forever be stuck in my mind:
“The Good-Morrow” by John
Did, till we lov’d? Were we not wean’d till then?
But suck’d on countrey pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the seaven sleepers den?
T’was so; But this, all pleasures fancies bee.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desir’d, and got, ’twas but a dreame of thee.
And now good morrow to our waking soules,
Which watch not one another out of feare;
For love, all love of other sights controules,
And makes one little roome, an every where.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let Maps to other, worlds on worlds have showne,
Let us possesse one world; each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appeares,
And true plaine hearts doe in the faces rest,
Where can we finde two better hemispheares
Without sharpe North, without declining West?
What ever dyes, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none can die.
This is a poem about love that begins during May Day. May Day in the 16th century, we would learn, was commonly known as the day teenagers, with the full consent and knowledge and encouragement of their parents, would partner up and spend the day out in the fields and forests having sex. And, this poem was about such activities.
Again, I can hear Stephen’s voice after the first stanza. “What does he mean by saying “suckling country pleasures?” When no acceptable answer came from the students, he would say it again slowly, “Come on – sucking cunt-ry pleasures? You don’t know what that means? Oral sex people! They were fucking and suckling cunt-ry pleasures.” Turns around the whole poem after hearing that!
Stephen died about 10 years ago of lung disease which wasn’t surprising if you ever took a class with him. I mean, the breaks in teaching were centered around his need for a cigarette – no one could have been too surprised by the end result.
So, despite the fact today is the second day of May, I encourage everyone to do what they did in the 16th century! Enjoy some country pleasures and such – even if it is a day late!