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A Tercentenary Ode

By Iggy McGovern

The enterprise begins, of course, in verse
A Scholar’s scorn of English, much less Erse;
Virgilian, the fragment spared the flame
Has ninety-five hexameters proclaim  
The right to plumb the depths where Nature hid
Since days of passage tomb and pyramid.
One hundred pounds of Widow Parsons’ boon:
Laboratory and Dissecting Room,
In unadorned red brick, two storeys high
(though lacking drainage and water supply)
Where Physicks, Chymistry and Botany
Have formed a quartet with Anatomy;
Three King’s Professors join, courtesy
Of Patrick Dun’s foresighted legacy
Which builds the hospital that bears his name
To close a century of growing fame.

The second opened with uncertainty:
The absence of expected poetry
Reflects the swift departure from the scene
Of parliamentary friends in College Green.
Stokes and McCartney, once “United” men
(who’d judged the sword less mighty than the pen)
Pushed on and proof they never ceased to strive,
The New School opening in ’twenty-five.
McCartney never shy to lend a hand
Or shovel with cadavers in demand
Might lead to Graves (forgive me!) first to bring
The heresy of bedside tutoring
And thence his protegé, the younger Stokes
Among the first to value stethoscopes
And just as swift as Haughton’s hangman’s drop
A golden century comes to a stop.

The third, despite much rhyming repartee
From scalpel nib of St John Gogarty,
Must see the College altering its stance
Towards another kind of governance,
That sea change separating two World Wars
When Medic staff and students earn their spurs.
In aftermath, like battles then are joined
As fierce competing acronyms are coined
And hospitals are merged, but from the flames
A Centre, phoenix-like, rose at St James;
A Biomedical Sciences Institute
In this centenary year then followed suit
Where students will be shown how to twin
research with teaching for good medicine.
Three hundred years of scientific wealth:
The patient’s in the very best of health!

With opportunity on every side
What better end can poetry provide
Than this, the College poet’s wise refrain:
Begin (something insists), begin again!


August 2011


Last updated 21 September 2016 by Tercentenary (Email).