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Good-Bye, Mr. Chips

Good-Bye, Mr. Chips

A Poem by p.kuhl

I. Lessons

You get very sleepy at times,
like lazy autumn, and the days
light the old sea of the past, and,

just across the road
is far. When you are getting on
in years, listen to the fire. Read
more. More like a mystic
of perception. Getting on in years,

indeed, I will say, sipping a glass

of the age (those diseases). A really natural

death; that is, a remarkable whisper. puts a strain on his heart


Nothing wrong with anno domini, but

that's fatal. Yes. Born and taken to the Great

Phenomenon. In those days, almost 

the beginning, with the air full of plick-

plock, a brilliant century; queer

like that...the world of the mind,

the sunlight filtering dust in a young man. Youth

and age will give you some tricks. Well

perhaps not; that's the secret.


II. Histories

He remembered more than a century

of lusty barbarians ready to pounce

on their prey. His youth, fresh, high-

collared, baiting masters and beggars,


but as a hush took his place

to cover the tall clock behind him, the smells

of ink and the last bloodred-rays

through stained-glass, someone dropped

by surprise. What's your name?

You have a hundred years


of the City and various other things,

twenty-five years and again, years

after that, many years for punctuating

inherited traditions. Your grandfather

never could grasp the absolute.

A stupid fellow, your grandfather.

And your father, too--


I remember him, he used to believe

the waves of humor and sadness, with his

laughing and crying. But across the road


there are acres of Elizabeth, up

and down, dwindling almost to non-

existence, becoming almost

the first George, and then later,

after the Wars, restored somewhat;

but it's subsequent history. Nevertheless,

it supplied fair samples

of us--judges, members, administrators,

a few peers and bishops. Mostly, however,

it turned out merchants and 

professional men.


It’s the sort of snobbish people (in any

social sense) that gradually repeat trials

and failures; for instance, being able

to fill a comfortable niche, to live

for that uproarious end-of-term

epilogue with its tragic audience.


III. Interactions

It was very comfortable;

ugly and pretentious-- that was the main thing.

If the weather were mild enough to stroll

across the afternoon, he made fire

soaked in guests, only to see plates

that never empty. He would glance

at the clock

and say, 


Well, it's been


I'm sorry

you can't stay


And he would smile

and shake hands, leaving them

to race across the road; anyhow,

you do know when he wants

to get broken, the young fool.


IV. Opinions

Do you remember him

before money? A placid life,

he had no pension. He could afford

a few bookshelves, big easy chairs;

there was, however,  a seasoning

of cheap detective novels, despite

his long years of dead languages.

English gentlemen ought to remember


(stirred by the warmth of a thousand

recollections) an age of predictable forms,

thinking in difficulties-- slipped and

wrenched. As it turned out, he never felt

at home or at ease. That monstrous creature,

the New Woman, and the world, seemed to him

full of the strangest opinions. There was

this new craze, this modern newness

and freedom--he had only a vague chivalry,

he could hardly walk down the steep track.


V. Combinations

She was twenty-five.

She had flashing eyes

and smooth, straw-colored hair.


She considered herself

quiet. That was how she put him

at her mercy. And it was revealed to him


how much he might need

that mercy. She was saved up.

She believed that she was radical


like Bernard Shaw, and she

poured out during those summer

afternoons; and he (because he was not


a stone slab, and it was comfortable

to sit down, facing the sunlight) had to

admit it; he had never met anyone like her.


VI. Commitments

Here she was--

making him look forward,

his opinions dated, yet he looked

charming when he smiled. They considered

themselves engaged, and married in a week.


VII. Difficulties

Dreaming through the days,

he walked under the washed

air after heavy rain. So clearly

it lingered, her cool voice--


Oh, Chips, I'm so glad

you are what you are

I was afraid

you were simple


He had told her of his difficulties

with certainty, and at the end of it all,

she had laughed in answer. She said,

with mock gravity,


This is an occasion, you knowI feel scared for once

Shall I call you 'sir?' or would 'Mr. Chips' be the right thing?

'Mr. Chips,' I think. Good-bye, then--

good-bye, Mr. Chips


VIII. Devotions

Young and lovely.

But most remarkable

of all--

great, great



IX. Positions

A quarter of a century--

long enough for anyone

to sink into that creeping dry

rot of profession, year after year,

a groove with insidious ease.


He was a fixture

that gave service, satisfaction, confidence, everything 

except inspiration.


And then came this astonishing newness,

a warming to life of things that were old

and unguessed. His eyes began to move.


Humor blossomed into a sudden richness

to a point in which it could

become, in a sense,

less rigid. 


He aimed to be obeyed,

at any rate, but not too much,

and at the same time imprint something

on the mind. History replied,


Oh, you liar! 

Roars of laughter.


X. Incidents

An outlook beyond the roofs

and turrets, he saw his country

as deep and gracious, one of many

feeding streams. When he disagreed,

he remained. But even he absorbed

maturity to produce an amalgam--

very gentle

and wise.


Sometimes, the idea is

so revolutionary it cannot survive

its first frosty reception. To introduce

a slum to the serene pleasaunces

of better kinds of things, untouched,

would be "incidents," and everyone

would be confused

and upset.




she said 


they're wrong,

you know, and I'm right


XI. Memories

You are looking back to the past.

You can't satisfy your conscience

by writing, keeping them at arm's

length. Besides, you are, maybe,

eighteen (not sixty-seven). You got

your ideas, and good ideas they were,

too, a lot of them. But a few want

unsticking. Don't stay forever.

There hasn't been anyone here

who ever saw less.


XII. Sessions

After all, it's nothing

very serious-- having hundreds

of unnatural black sheep, contaminated

to begin with. We can't help it. All the more

reason to tell the boy again, how it began.


After all, isn't he

a rather nice boy? And so on. About

once in ten times, whenever he had trouble,

he would stand there, waiting to be told

his punishment, a shine that told him all was well.


After all, I'll bet

he's too cocksure of himself. If he's looking

for trouble I should certainly let him have it.

What a host of little incidents, all deep-buried

anecdotes, funny only because they have vanished.


After all, it's nothing

to them. Treasure the ghostly record.

And so on. Remember small talk, settle

with these days, huh? Things like this lose

their flavor once they have been written down.


XIII. Words

Perhaps if you didn't remember

(and who would, anyway?) your time,

dreaming again before the fire, dreaming

of secret interests, then sort them out

and make a book of them. There was always

some nightmare, half-struggling to escape

the sun. I wish I were dead, myself. To get used

to things before facing the kind words of others,

a cold, continuing trance. There are a lot of letters

for you, all addressed by name. Open one after

the other, but in a distant way, days afterward.


XIV. Troubles

They had died on the same day, the mother 

and the child just born. At first

he would just give up, but later

he was glad to feel

an emptiness in his mind. He was different; 

everyone noticed it. Grief became kind

of active, some energetic wonder.

Last I heard of him, he was too old

at fifty. And it was true--


with the new century, a mellowness

gathered into a single harmony. No longer

did he have those troubles about his own

worth; he found cause for pride in himself.

To be supremely and completely

himself. He had won a no-man's-land

of privilege. Those gentle eccentricities

that so often attack with an air of mystic 

abandonment to ritual.


XV. Deaths

He held the long sheet, and as he passed,

spoke his own name. Steel-rimmed spectacles

slipping down the nose, eyebrows lifted (one

a little higher than the other), a gaze half rapt,

half quizzical, with gown and white hair

fluttering in uproarious confusion, the whole

thing became a comic turn of a chorus. Where

had they all gone, those threads he had once held

together, how far had they scattered, some

to break, others to weave in unknown patterns,

as one may glimpse behind the mist? He saw

the world of change and conflict. He saw it

more than he realized. The brilliance of it left him

with a calmness and a poise that he did not share.

He was far too traditional and he disliked people

who would cross his mind at times. He once tried

to remember you as a young man. He gets away

with it. At that age, anything you say is all right.


XVI. Clouds

There was the faintest silence. He was altogether

a milder and less ferocious animal. Morning,

the clang of an unaccustomed time, summoned,

and fixing the multitude with a cold afternoon,

he stood a little way off. You have put your life

in his hands many a time. Because, whatever happens

and however the avenues twist and curve, worth

depends on dignity and vision. Of an England

nearly over, of a nation steering into catastrophic

jubilee, there has been a holiday. See the procession,

that old and legendary lady, like some crumbling

wooden doll, like yourself, nearing an end. And then,

that frenzied decade like an electric lamp just before

it burns itself out. Champagne April-- windy and rainy,

young, careless, preoccupied. A quiet, nervous grey.


XVII. Complaints

I want to be severe, generally, but today--

well, we'll say no more about it. It was a happy

ending. Funny thing, he was not attracted 

to the question. He said No, I can't say that

I have thought much about plain words.


Your methods are slack and slovenly. You

ignore my insubordination. It won't do.


He took up isolated words--

Slovenly, you said? I happen to know

that in your case, it's a mixture of obstinacy

and Latin pronunciation. The new style

is simply chaos.


At last, something tangible could answer

scornfully. I admit that I don't agree with

nonsense, God bless my soul. That's just

an example of what I complain of. You hold

one opinion, and I hold another. There can't be


any alternative. I aim to make a science myself.

But I have dead languages. No reason.


XVIII. Jokes

When I began here, years ago, I was

modern. A torrent of thoughts too pressing

to be put into words. Examinations. And so on.

What did they matter? All this up-to-date-

ness, trying to run like a factory. A factory

for turning out money and machines. Family

and acres, widening to form a genuine

speech: vulgar, ostentatious-- all the rotten-

ripeness of the age. Some joke about

a father. No sense of proportion. And it was a sense


of proportion above all things. Not so much

Latin or Mechanics. And you couldn't expect

to test that sense of proportion in an instant


of protest and indignation, a few paces away.

Enough of the argument. I don't intend to calm

perspective of a heart, to feel sorry for parents. 

A spontaneous outburst of fear and respect.

Even respect. Nevertheless, they hated

the story. It just shows you. It just shows you


that they walked round deserted pitches. We

all know it. You can stay here 'til you're

a hundred if you feel like it.


XIX. Epilogues

So he stayed as little as possible

to better himself. He was supposed

to be brilliant. At any rate, he was

modern and wise. After all, it was

a good, ripe age, and words had,

in some ways, had an effect. He felt

if he could not decently do his job

he would sever himself completely.

Across the road, the excellent still, 

had many jokes and was made 

twice as long by laughter. There were

Latin quotations as well as a guilt

of exaggeration. I remember his father,

a Latin translation. Roars of laughter.

He had been very happy. It has been

my life he said, simply. O mihi praeteritos

referat si Jupiter annos. I need not

translate. I remember the first bicycle.

I remember when there was no electric

light. I remember when there was a hard

frost. I remember the great bonfire lit

too near the firemen having their own

celebrations. I remember a lot of money.

In fact, I remember so much I often think

I ought to write a book. Now, what

should I call it? Well, perhaps I shall

write it, some day, but I'd rather

tell you about it. I remember...I

remember...I remember all

your faces. I have thousands of faces

in my mind. That's the point. And the

answer came, in a shrill treble--

Good-bye, Mr. Chips. The joke

was almost traditional. Whatever

has happened, give me this moment,

this last moment. All things are forgotten

in the end. At any rate, remember

and tell the tale.

© 2014 p.kuhl

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you've gone and grown again :)

lovely to visit with you this morning

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Added on May 22, 2014
Last Updated on May 22, 2014



Bloomington, IN

My name is Pierce, and I am a 23 year old English major at Indiana University. "How easily I connect to you. You're always everything at once, somehow. You're shy and open, sweet and cold, curious .. more..

Heidi and I Heidi and I

A Poem by p.kuhl