Near a pond, with bread by Percival P. Pennywhistle

Blake's lambs

If ducks be here, Lord love €˜em,* €¨
For ducks** were made by Him:
۬Like lambs and tigers,*** sticks and stones, ۬
Whales and whistles, broken bones, ۬
Dogs and squirrels, cats**** and mice,
۬Girls***** and gimmicks, fire and ice.
۬And, if ducks, then children,****** too;
۬Which is to say, the Lord made you.*******

* There is, as the most precocious among you will already know, a saying about ducks and lords and love which has a profound and mystical meaning at its heart, as the Professor is attempting to show, and so will not spoil by giving it away here.
** Among, as is about to become apparent, a host of other things (though not, clearly, individually), several billion of which are not mentioned here, but at least two handfuls of which are.
*** The Professor thanks his auspicious and decidedly dead colleague, William Blake, for the notion, which can be found in his haunting and intricately illustrated book, Songs of Innocence and Experience. Indeed, the image above the poem is a portion of one such illustration, which is why it is of lambs and not of ducks. (The tiger, as it turns out, is hiding on another page.)
**** The Professor has included cats against his better judgment.
***** This fact will, perhaps, surprise young male readers, but it is true, and the Professor is pressed to report that girls are not only more interesting than boys in the main, but they also generally smell better.
****** Do not, under any circumstances, allow your parents or your older brother to convince you otherwise.
******* Which is not to say that He meddled in any particular or immediate way in your making €”that is entirely your parents’ fault €”rather He made the system by and into which you were born, which he occasionally bumps and nudges, but only, the Professor suspects, when invited to.
Nor can He be held responsible for broken bones or other maladies and misfortunes. Such things are, we must accept, a part of life. To think otherwise is to engage something called a €œtheosophy, € which is box-like, awkward, cumbersome, but ultimately less weighty or important than it thinks it is.
In any event, Mr. Blake’s lamb would agree, bleatingly.
Professor Percival P. Pennywhistle, PhD, is, as many of you already know, handsome and brilliant and hard at work at several collections of poetry for people, especially smallish and precocious ones.

12 thoughts on “Near a pond, with bread by Percival P. Pennywhistle”

  1. The notes are as much a poem as the poem itself. It seems a contradiction, though, if you write in the poem that the Lord “made” broken bones, but then in the notes declare He is not to be “held responsible” for them. Am I missing something?


  2. Will, the following, relayed from the Professor in response to your observation/question:

    “Please assure Dr. Reger that the Professor never contradicts himself, and that therefore Dr. Reger must, indeed, be missing something, though he is very astute to have wondered about this in the first place.

    “So, let us first re-classify the relation between the two propositions as a paradox, not a contradiction, and not least of all because it begins with ‘p.’ The Lord, the poem asserts, made ‘you,’ whoever you are, but did not, as the Professor’s note qualifies, specifically interfere in that making insofar as it pertains to the, ahem, conception, combination, socialization, etc, that have resulted in your being as, what, and who you are. In short, He made but did not make you.

    “Similarly, thought not identically, the Lord has created an environment in which there is significant and substantial potential for broken bones, especially if you a) jump on trampolines, b) climb tall trees, c) ride bmx bicycles, d) work with, near, or around Jackie Chan, or e) live in certain areas of Brooklyn, especially in the late 50s through the early 70s. In this sense, by creating the potential for rupture of ‘bones’ in general he has, generically, as a type and a possibility, created ‘broken bones’ as a category of experience. He is not, however, in the habit of breaking particular bones, or of causing them to be broken.

    “Finally, though the Professor may (or may not) concur with the whole content of the poem, he reminds his readers of the principle of ironic distance, which is to say that while both the speaker of the poem and the Professor are highly intelligent, incredibly handsome, and profoundly wise, they are not necessarily the same person, and to assume so would be to adopt a potentially faulty and misleading syllogism, which is to say an enthymeme, which is to say one would accept an assumption as implicit that may or may not be accurate, factual, or sufficient. The similarities between the speaker of the poem and the Professor (who acknowledges responsibility for the footnotes as expressions of his own positions on these and other similarly fascinating matters) may, indeed, be entirely coincidental.”

    So there you have it. I’m sure you regret asking. Welcome to my world.


  3. Mark, I don’t think you were ever at university with the Professor, as he is quite senior, though remarkably well preserved, with the physique of a fit 30-year-old and a reasonable head of reasonably-dark hair.

    I think you must be thinking of someone else.


  4. I’ll inform the Professor, Mr. Gunter (barrister? or businessman?), but I’m quite certain he thinks himself above contract work. He’s a touch arrogant.


  5. Confirmed, thus wise:

    “Please tell Mr. Gunter that the Professor only makes excuses for himself, and never for other people, though he is gratified by the compliment.”

    You got off easy. Usually it’s 4 pages.


  6. I should think the Lord would hold himself responsible. If not for the broken bones, at least for the theosophy.


  7. The reply, just sent:

    “Please tell Mr. Schweiger two things: 1) thank you for reading (and thinking); and 2) the Professor will not presume to speak for the Lord, but he will hazard the following guess: the Lord would hold Himself responsible for His own nature, no doubt, but not for our rather limited ideas about that nature, or, for that matter, our rather limited ideas about responsibility.”


  8. Well, I have to say, I’m wondering what the professor had in mind in his pairing of “Girls and gimmicks.” Pretty loaded, that. It sounds like someone broke his heart somewhere along the line and he still harbors an ironic ache deep in his erudite psyche.


  9. The Professor’s ways are inscrutable as language herself. He pleads the fifth on this one, though he is neither American nor in America.


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