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16 January 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 5:51pm

The NS Poem: Address to the Bethlehem Female Seminary, Germantown, Pennsylvania, 1742

A new poem by Tim Liardet.

By Tim Liardet

The chained dictionary in the chained library

is too weighty to lift, you say. Beyond the lock of it,

the door to the library, also locked.

Beyond that, the stair to the library, at the foot

of which is another locked door. Aha, girls,

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taught Latin and Calculus, to read and to sew,

you feel these lines of defence arrayed against

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the enemy. Not only is this not a book for you

but a lexicon in chains, kept secure only

by the careful hands of monks and scholars.

Let us call this the history of protection

which means these men have had to do a lot of leaning:

a whole living language ripped by light of day

from the tip – from underneath – your tongue.

Tim Liardet has been twice shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Arcimboldo’s Bulldog: New and Selected Poems will be published by Carcanet in May. 

This article appears in the 10 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Toddler in chief