Lapsus Calami (Apr 1891)/"Facilis Descensus Averni"

Lapsus Calami by J.K.S.
"Facilis Descensus Averni"

First published in The Eton Rambler, 18 May 1880, "'Facilis Descensus Averni'" was reprinted in the first two editions of Lapsus Calami. It was omitted from the third, and reinstated in the posthumous edition.

"Facilis Descensus Averni."

When I was new and all unspoiled,
O how I loved examinations!
With what unflagging zeal I toiled!
With what incessant labour soiled
My books! how high my spirit boiled!
Till—notwithstanding regulations—
At times the surreptitious oil 'd
Assist my midnight lucubrations:
And how my very soul recoiled
At any thought of being foiled
By other people's machinations.

Thus, thus the unsuspecting youth
Sets forth upon the task of life,
His zeal for seeking abstract truth
Is sharpened by his love of strife;
High rise his hopes—his earliest half
Gleig's Wellington in yellow calf,
And Creasy's Battles, side by side,
Excite his own, his parents' pride.
But hopes are vain, pride hollow:
The sequel of my tale abide,
And mark what needs must follow.

So hard on one another's heels
The blithe examinations troop,
That soon the young enthusiast feels
Like flowers do that droop, and droop—
And then a tempest of despair
Sweeps over him: his only care
Is now to find some brilliant, rare,
And quite unprecedented blunders,
To clear the dull scholastic air,
And startle Academic thunders.

Then comes the melancholy, vain,
And hopeless struggle to regain
His old unsullied reputation:
Abortive efforts to attain
Impossible regeneration:
And, when the last collapse is plain,
No earthly solace doth remain,
Except to launch an imprecation
That only is not quite profane
Against the author of his pain,
Who brings all evils in his train,
The friend of sloth, ambition's bane,
The master fiend, Examination.

Eton Rambler, May 18th, 1880.