Monthly Archives: January 2011

Jan. 3, 2011: THE HISTORY TEACHER (Billy Collins)

Dear members/readers:

thanks LB for the enlightenment. Sure, you just had time to “muse,”
and with your musing dropped more knowledge about medieval monks than
the rest of us knew, collectively. “[T]he speaker gives both places,
as different as they are, the same possibility for opening his mind to
the eternal”: Yup, that sounds like Mr. Heaney, and he’ll use any
image he can to get there.

Now, with my new-found powers of brazen solicitation, I’m wondering if
anyone named Adam in the Chicagoland area has words of wisdom–or just
musings–about Billy Collins’s “The History Teacher?”

Happy new year,



Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call the matador’s hat?”

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,

while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.