A Professor To His Coy Doctoral Student
(with apologies to Andrew Marvell)
Had we but world enough, and time,
Procrastination were no crime.
We would sit down and think, and talk,
Sketch plans for drafts in yellow chalk,
Read, discuss, and once again read . . .
We'd hardly ever feel a need
To put ourselves upon the rack
And pick up pen or plug in Mac.
Thou in the library would find
Countless delights to charm thy mind.
An hundred years you there might spend
Perusing volumes without end,
Gathering insights, culling quotes,
Checking references and notes,
Rounding out your self-instruction,
Just to draft your Introduction.
Two hundred more to settle on
A good title for Chapter One;
And thirty thousand for the next
Ten pages of completed text.
An equal time I'd grant for you
Simply to outline Chapter Two.
And after that, at least an age
To bring perfection to each page;
'Til you, clearing each confusion,
Reach your breathtaking conclusion.
But looming up ahead, I fear,
The final deadline drawing near.
And after that before you lie
Deserts of aidless penury.
And then your struggle will indeed
Be hard, with nought on which to feed
Save thoughts and theories from the past.
Do you with these wish to hold fast?
Ideas may be food for thought
But you need quite another sort
Of sustenance, else hunger must
Reduce you and your dreams to dust.
The grave is not the worst of states,
But no-one from there graduates.
Now, therefore, while upon you lies
The sheen of youth; and in your eyes
A gleam of sense can be discerned,
Make use of all that you have learned!
Don't wait 'til you're beneath the net
Of unpaid bills and mounting debt,
With spouses nagging in your ear
About your lack of a career,
And kids who keep you up all night,
And pee all over what you write.
Abandon your imprudent ways!
Bring to an end your student days.
Though you may not have wisdom's keys,
At least you will pay no more fees.
And if, having fir'd your best shot,
You realize that you have not
Broken through the gates of knowledge–
You'll at least be out of college.
by Emrys Westacott