They Also Serve
by Burton Raffel
from Beethoven in Denver and Other Poems
(in which Beethoven returns from the dead and moves in with Raffel for extended conversations on music, politics, women, history, chocolate, mountains, love, and God)
"They pay you so much—for teaching?” Beethoven
"Universities are a big business, these days," I assured
him after noting
That it was not really so much that they paid me, not
so much at all.
"The world of education is not what it was: time
He sighed and drank some beer. “In my Vienna,
Teaching was much more a matter of public relations—
of what you call advertising today—
Than a real source of income. And what dunderhead
pupils I had!
You are fortunate, more even than you know.”
I wanted to insist that I worked for my keep, but
instead I commented that, somehow,
The Beethovens of the world seemed always to
manage—but Raffels, you know,
Well, we had to scramble. “And after all,” I concluded
with a flourish,
"How many Beethovens are there?” He blinked and
stared hard at me:
I had not noticed, before, how exceedingly blue his
eyes could become.
"And how many Raffels are there?" he demanded
And with such plain intent that I could not answer,
I could only look down and wish that somehow I had
managed, just this once, to keep my
Author of over 60 books, including a translation of Beowulf that has sold more than one million copies since it was published in 1963, Burton Raffel is one of the most widely read American poets of the second half of the twentieth century. In addition to six previous volumes of his own poetry, he has published critical studies of T.S. Eliot, Robert Lowell, Ezra Pound, and many other figures.