The Battle of the Pons Trium Trojanorum

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A lay sung in the Temple of Minerva Girtanensis.

[NOTE.--On Thursday, February 24th, 1881, three Graces were submitted to the Senate of the University of Cambridge, confirming the Report of The Syndicate appointed June 3rd, 1880, to consider four memorials relating to the Higher Education of Women. The first two Graces were passed by majorities of 398 and 258 against 32 and 26 respectively; the third was unopposed. The allusions in the following lay will probably be understood only by those who reside in Cambridge; but it may be stated that Professor Kennedy, Professor Fawcett, and Sir C. Dilke gave their votes and influence in favour of The Graces, while Dr. Guillemard, Mr. Wace, Mr. Potts, Professor Lumby, Dr. Perowne, Mr. Horne and Mr. Hamblin Smith voted against The Graces.]


  Aemilia Girtonensis,
    By the Nine Muses swore
  That the great house of Girton
    Should suffer wrong no more.
  By the Muses Nine she swore it,
    And named a voting day,
  And bade her learned ladies write,
  And summon to the impending fight
    Their masters grave and gay.


  East and West and South and North
    The learned ladies wrote,
  And town and gown and country
    Have read the martial note.
  Shame on the Cambridge Senator
    Who dares to lag behind,
  When light-blue ladies call him
    To join the march of mind.


  But by the yellow Camus
    Was tumult and affright:
  Straightway to Pater Varius
    The Trojans take their flight--
  'O Varius, Father Varius,
    'To whom the Trojans pray,
  'The ladies are upon us!
    'We look to thee this day!'


  There be thirty chosen Fellows,
    The wisest of the land,
  Who hard by Pater Varius
    To bar all progress stand:
  Evening and morn the Thirty
    On the Three Graces sit,
  Traced from the left by fingers deft
    In the great Press of Pitt.


  And with one voice the Thirty
    Have uttered their decree--
  'Go forth, go forth, great Varius,
    'Oppose the Graces Three!
  'The enemy already
    'Are quartered in the town,
  'And if they once the Tripos gain,
    'What hope to save the gown?'


  'To Hiz,[1] the town of Offa,
    'Their classes first they led,
  'Then onward to Girtonia
    'And Nunamantium sped:
  'And now a mighty army
    'Of young and beardless girls
  'Beneath our very citadel
    'A banner proud unfurls.'


  Then out spake Father Varius,
    No craven heart was his:
  'To Pollmen and to Wranglers
    'Death comes but once, I wis.
  'And how can man live better,
    'Or die with more renown,
  'Than fighting against Progress
    'For the rights of cap and gown?'


  'I, with two more to help me,
    'Will face yon Graces Three;
  'Will guard the Holy Tripod,
    'And the M.A. Degree.
  'We know that by obstruction
    'Three may a thousand foil.
  'Now who will stand on either hand
    'To guard our Trojan soil?'


  Then Parvue Mariensis,
    Of Bearded Jove the Priest,
  Spake out 'of Trojan warriors
    'I am, perhaps, the least,
  'Yet will I stand at thy right hand.'
    Cried Pottius--'I likewise
  'At thy left side will stem the tide
    'Of myriad flashing eyes.


  Meanwhile the Ladies' Army,
    Right glorious to behold,
  Came clad in silks and satins bright,
    With seal-skins and with furs bedight,
  And gems and rings of gold.
    Four hundred warriors shouted
  'Placet' with fiendish glee,
    As that fair host with fairy feet,
    And smiles unutterably sweet,
    Came tripping each towards her seat,
  Where stood the dauntless Three.


  The Three stood calm and silent,
    And frowned upon their foes,
  As a great shout of laughter
    From the four hundred rose:
  And forth three chiefs came spurring
    Before their ladies gay,
  They faced the Three, they scowled and scoffed,
  Their gowns they donned, their caps they doffed,
    Then sped them to the fray.


  Generalis Post-Magister,
    Lord of the Letter-bags;
  And Dilkius Radicalis,
    Who ne'er in combat lags;
  And Graecus Professorius,
    Beloved of fair Sabrine,
  From the grey Elms--beneath whose shade
  A hospitable banquet laid,
  Had heroes e'en of cowards made.--
    Brought 'placets' thirty-nine.


  Stout Varius hurled 'non placet'
    At Post-Magister's head:
  At the mere glance of Pottius
    Fierce Radicalis fled:
  And Parvus Mariensis--
    So they who heard him tell--
  Uttered but one false quantity,
    And Professorius fell!


  But fiercer still and fiercer
    Fresh foemen sought the fray.
  And fainter still and fainter
    Stout Varius stood at bay.
  'O that this too, too solid
    Flesh would dissolve,' he sighed;
  Yet still he stood undaunted,
    And still the foe defied.


  Then Pollia Nunamensis,
    A student sweetly fair,
  Famed for her smiles and dimples
    Blue eyes and golden hair,
    Of Cupid's arrows seized a pair,
        One in each eye she took:
    Cupid's best bow with all her might
    She pulled--each arrow winged its flight,
    And straightway reason, sense, and sight
        Stout Varius forsook.


  'He falls'--the Placets thundered,
    And filled the yawning gap;
  In vain his trusty comrades
    Avenge their chief's mishap--
        His last great fight is done.
  'They charge! Brave Pottius prostrate lies,
  No Rider helps him to arise:
  They charge! Fierce Mariensis dies.
        The Bridge, the Bridge is won!


  In vain did Bencornutus
    Flash lightnings from his beard;
  In vain Fabrorum Maximus
    His massive form upreared;
  And Lumbius Revisorius--
    Diviner potent he!--
  And Peronatus robed in state,
  And fine old Fossilis sedate,
  All vainly stemmed the tide of fate--
        Triumphed the Graces Three!


  But when in future ages
    Women have won their rights,
  And sweet girl-undergraduates
    Read through the lamp-lit nights;
  When some, now unborn, Pollia
    Her head with science crams;
  When the girls make Greek Iambics,
    And the boys black-currant jams;


  When the goodman's shuttle merrily
    Goes flashing through the loom,
  And the good wife reads her Plato
    In her own sequestered room;
  With weeping and with laughter
    Still shall the tale be told,
  How pretty Pollia won the Bridge
    In the brave days of old.

  1. The ancient name of Hitchin.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.