Portrait Sans Retouche

(After an unexpected reunion in a cupboard with a ragged copy
of Kennedy's Shorter Latin Primer)

Roll up! Roll up! The Master in his cage!
Roll up! Roll up! The Brute! The  Backbone-Chiller!
The Loathsome Ogre! Watch him rant and rage!
The Classic 6th’s Articulate Gorilla!

Look at his old lag's mug scowl through the bars,
A knobbed potato mottled by the light,
Sniff his aroma, swipes and stale cigars
And garments salvaged last Guy Fawkes's Night.

Black gowns take on a greenish tinge in time,
Age-crusted remnants deck most pedants' haunches –
But his patina seemed a living slime
Like algae spawned on sloths' inverted paunches.

Few can forget the way that he would squelch
Round class, mud-gobbed, with Cicero's Epistles,
Or, in his baggy worsted, sourly belch
One bulbous finger scratching at his bristles.

The grime beneath his nails was stratified.
No Dracula could spread such deep unease.
O withered heart wrapped in a wart-hog's hide!
O fist and bellow still with power to freeze!

Still, in so many minds, he mows and mops
From Memory's Mappin Terrace of Yahoos,
His blunt head grunting at whoever stops
To stare, appalled, and, too late, cry J’accuse!

                   THE EPITAPH

Here lies the rottenest Roman of them all,
His tomb a target of the vandal rhymer.
Schoolboys no more shall tremble in his thrall
For, Sir, at last, has handed in his primer.

Jerome Betts

If you have any comments on this poem,  Jerome Betts  would be pleased to hear from you.