Professor of New Testament Jack Levison reflects on William Butler Yeats' poem "Adam's Curse," the book of Daniel, and life in the spirit without verbs, in the July 10 Huffington Post
. Here is an excerpt:
Escape From the Busy Trap
At college graduation this year, an adept student told me about the class she most remembered. I teach religion, the Bible to be exact, and she took a course on the book of Acts. One day, after I had graded their essays in my usual frenetic fit of exasperation at bad grammar and disconnected thoughts, I threw aside my content-driven plans for class and dug out my favorite poem, "Adam's Curse," by William Butler Yeats. The first stanza reads like this:
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.
No doubt you can guess the words I cajoled my students to consider. "A line will take us hours maybe." Hours? Maybe ... 180 minutes or more? Some of my students -- and most college students, if recent studies are right -- spend that much time on an entire essay! Not Yeats. Not the famed Irish poet. If we divide Yeats' line, A line will take us hours maybe, into 180 minutes, that's, gulp, 27 minutes per word!