No one gave him a scallop-shell or scrip
of anything; he worked long years for this.
He’ll take his As, his hard-earned scholarship,
his knotted hankie full of prejudice,
and seek for truth among the pleasant groves
of academe (Epistles, Horace). Art
hangs in those trees like fruit; like geese in droves,
ideas fill those lanes. His gritstone heart
softens to each blithe spirit there chance-met,
each punting lutenist, each well-read youth,
each fortune-favoured lightfoot lad. And yet:
although all Oxford knows Beauty is Truth
and Truth is Beauty, Sheffield says “Not quite.”
Sheffield wonders with Brecht, of what is built
the palace of culture? Such a golden white,
honey on yoghurt, syrup on cream, gilt
tears not worth spilling on milk spilt long ago.
The temple of learning glows like toffee ice.
Or sugar. Raw cane sugar. When you know
t’truth about beauty, then you question t’price.
Eleanor Brown 2015