CABBAGES AND KINGS
This piece originally appeared in the January 23, 1967 issue of the Crimson, and was written by George H. Rosen '68. We re-run it for two reasons: one, this is exam period, and two, wisdom is timeless. Cambridge may have more snow than it needs, and Roast Beef Specials are up to $1.10, but some things never change.
THOUGHTS ARE errant during exam period. The worlds of fact and doctrine ("Birds cannot actually fly; they are merely prodigious leapers!") collide with the grim fantasies spawned by anxiety ("Perhaps there will be an earthquake and we won't have to take exams"). One sits at a chair and looks out the window. Cambridge does not even have the grace to be covered with snow. ("What if Harry Levin actually wrote the plays of Shakespeare?"). Sulphur-laden ice spreads like cancer over the Charles and Roast Beef Specials cost 60 cents ("If the Atlantic rose a few inches, Boston would be devastated and there wouldn't be any exams").
Students claw at their carrel-tops and calculate ("If I read 800 words a minute, 16 hours a day, I will finish the readihg by August 20th. But if I read 800 words a minute for 17 hours..."). Cold fact asserts itself through sleep-drugged minds ("Gazelles cannot actually leap; they are merely very poor flyers"), until fact and fancy no longer collide but merge like an icy cancer spreading over a Roast Beef Special ("If the Atlantic rose and drowned all the gazelles there might not be any Harry Levins").
As the days swing onward, galumph-galumph, students leap from their carrels out into the snowless Yard ("I am not a prodigious leaper, I am a bird"). Lights burn late in House rooms ("Look at it this way, Silas, Louis Quinze is to Pompadour as you are to..."). Some seek recourse to the warm reassurance of love not dependant on academic achievement ("Sally, if I were stupid, would you still love me the way I love you?"). Others seek recourse to the warm reassurance of physical exhileration independent of academic achievement ("I'm not going to get out of shape this exam period. Hell, no, I unicycle to Revere Beach every morning").
But it is all in vain. Inevitable, inexorable, creeps forward the tide of men's despair in this petty world of fact ("There was a flood in Boston in 1835, maybe there will be again"). And all will be in vain, gurp, forever ("If it was 1835 I wouldn't have to go on the unicycle to Revere Beach, I could drown in my rooms").
Librarian, I am cold. Pray you, undo this button. Thank you sir. Do you not see the gazelle on the rushing waters? I know he looks at me ("What if Harry Levin wrote the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay?"). I am sleepy and oozy weeds about me twist. "Chirp."