Poem: Farnsworth (spring 1982)


[Composed at Columbia Law School in spring 1982,
regarding Professor E. Allen Farnsworth,
buried in Arlington National Cemetery, March 3, 2005.]


The name is Farnsworth, as you know:
My manner doth my breeding show.
I wear a sweater, bright and green,
My underwear is always clean.
I brush my teeth three times a day,
Which makes my smile very gay.
In springtime my Top Siders shine, and
Smell of wood and sweet salt brine.

My name is Sir E. Allen F.,
And among profs I am the best.
My casebook is so apropos:
To think of it just makes me glow.
I drip Code sections like a sieve,
Along with wisdom that I give,
In syllables, like pirates’ plunder,
Which fall on students’ heads like thunder.

Yet creasing up this noble brow
(You’ll note upon my profile now)
Is that those brilliant words of thunder
Have split my students’ skulls asunder.
It seems that they can barely stand
To learn under my steady hand.
Though patiently I try to teach,
My concepts fall beyond their reach.

It’s tough, I find, to undergo
Such soul‑searching as now I show:
Should I have scheduled class for 10,
In hopes they’d be awake by then?
Or pre-requir’d a seminar,
And passage of the New York Bar?
Perhaps the key is to ignore
The class-cutting I so abhor.

I could, I guess, have found a way
To make those simple concepts stay
Inside those skulls, securely known,
As though inscribed on blocks of stone;
And in the process, could make clear
That to me those young fools are dear
(Though thick, and slow, and it’s not new
That of them I just hate a few);

I’ll take some steps they well deserve
To heighten next year’s grading curve:
Roll before each worthy class;
Paddle every tardy ass;
Quizzes every other week;
Recitations: make them speak;
Limit trips to the restroom;
And whip them into fear and gloom.

But in this medicine I’ll cast
Some things to build their hopes at last.
I’ll point to stars up in the sky
Who sat on Law Review (as I),
And note that some such minds, so fleet
Sit in three rows next to my feet.
And finally, I’ll hint that all
Might even find some job by fall.

With this sure justice and dispatch
I my saving scheme thus hatch.
And if it takes another year
To get results, I have no fear:
Dean Wood is ready with the scythe
To cast away those, all too blithe,
Who think of me so casually,
Forgetting it is I, Sir E.!


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