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This poem is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

Two Poems Philip Burton

A Word to The Unwise

Who gave the name of 'rape' to the dainty oil-seed?
Rapum, Latin word for turnip. Why mislead?

Lucus, Latin for the woodland shade,
came to mean the obverse: 'light', instead.
So lucus a non lucendo is a word-made-paradox,
a knowing word, a deceitful etymon, a fox
in hounds' clothing with a double-cross in each eye.
He takes his alter ego everywhere. As an alibi.

In the pseudonymity of 'English Public School'
'Public' doesn't play the game at all.
Public? Oh come on! But the derivation
of the name reveals, like Briar Fox, its true bacon.
The sense of 'Public', intended by its eponym,
pricks old-boys to public service. The antonym,
'private', leaps to attention in this more democratic age
...


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