Works in the Herald 1935
"Twice one are two; twice two are four."
I can still hear it floating thro' the old school door:
   Those childish voices falling, rising in rhythmic chant,
   In a room where heat is prevalent and ventilation scant.
"Twice nine are eight-teen."  And, presiding o'er the scene,
Like a demon in a "panto," blackavised and racked with pain,
   Urging on the chorus faster, towers Mr Tank, the master,
With his mutton-chop whiskers and his cane --
His cruel, thrice-accursed rattan cane.

Some incurable affliction soured his spirit, it was said;
For, above his brow, an ever-present plaster decked his head.
   "Twice one are two; twice two are four --"
   And suddenly the master disappeared behind the door.
For 'twas said, too, his affection had instilled a predilection
For too-frequent nips of liquor on the sly now and again.
   And they boded fell disaster for gaunt Mr Tank, our master,
With his mutton-chop whiskers and his cane --
His ever-swinging, torture-bringing cane.

He "kept us in" one afternoon till summer dusk came down,
While, as the elder scholars knew, he liquored in the town,
   And a dozen big boys rushed him as he swayed in at the door,
   And they poured ink on his whiskers as he grovelled on the floor.
And we small kiddies stood about, mouths agape, eyes popping out,
   To see our dreaded teacher branded with this shameful stain.
For no idol could loom vaster than grim Mr Tank, the master,
   With his mutton-chop whiskers and his cane.
   But they broke to bits his terrifying cane.

"Twice one are two, twice two are four" --
The chant arose next morning, while, across the ink-stained floor,
   Mr Tank, ashamed but savage, glowered at the trembling class . . . 
   But my thoughts of him grow gentle as the mellowing seasons pass.
Now, when hard-won knowledge fails me, straight an olden dread assails me,
   And, a phantom cane, descending sharply stirs my wits again,
And I bless stern Tank, the master, with his strip of sticking-plaster,
   And his mutton-chop whiskers, and his cane --
   Most especially, his wisdom-waking cane.

Herald, 6 May 1935, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003