30 May 2005

Undergraduate, Not Student

Marianne Moore:

"In America," began
the lecturer, "everyone must have a
degree. The French do not think that
all can have it, they don't say everyone
     must go to college." We
incline to feel
     that although it may be unnecessary

to know fifteen languages,
one degree is not too much. With us, a
school--like the singing tree of which
the leaves were mouths singing in concert--
     is both a tree of knowledge
and of liberty--
     seen in the unanimity of college

mottoes, Lux et veritas,
Christo et ecclesiae, Sapient
. It may be that we
have not knowledge, just opinions, that we
     are undergraduates,
not students; we know
     we have been told with smiles, by expatriates

of whom we had asked "When will
your experiment be finished?" "Science
is never finished." Secluded
from domestic strife, Jack Bookworm led a
     college life, says Goldsmith;
and here also as
     in France or Oxford, study is beset with
dangers,--with bookworms, mildews,
and complaisancies. But someone in New
England has known enough to say
the student is patience personified,
     is a variety
of hero, "patient
of neglect and of reproach"--who can "hold by

himself." You can't beat hens to
make them lay. Wolf's wool is the best of wool,
but it cannot be sheared because
the wolf will not comply. With knowledge as
     with the wolf's surliness,
the student studies
     voluntarily, refusing to be less

than individual. He
"gives his opinion and then rests on it";
he renders service when there is
no reward, and is too reclusive for
     some things to seem to touch
him, not because he
     has no feeling but because he has so much.
Now I've got to find the perfect teacher poem.

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