The Raving

[In the early days of my teaching, when I taught a graduate-level instrumentation systems course in the department, I used to find means to challenge my students in unconventional ways and, at the same time, exercise my own creativity when giving final examinations. Thus was born my “great literature” series of final exams. The following is one of these exams.]

Once within my research meeting, while my thoughts were weak and fleeting,
Over many a quaint and familiar host of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As from my advisor rapping, rapping at my vision’s door–
“’Tis some revenant,” I sputtered, “tapping at my vision’s door–
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each musing’s dying demur wrought its part into my snore.
Eagerly I wished the ending;–vainly I had tried mind bending
From my psyche pulling, rending–rending of my thoughts galore–
To that rare and radiant moment when this meeting be no more–
Endless here for evermore.

Presently the noise grew stronger: hesitating then no longer
“Sir,” said I, “I am pained, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But you caught me lightly napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping to dissolve my bore,
That I scarce was sure I heard you–now my eyes are wide once more;
No need there is to shout and roar.”

Returning to the world around, speaking no longer any sound;
Pensive, and receptive to instructions given twice before.
He towered before me glaring, moving not and stiffly staring,
Uttered words no longer sparing, shaking me unto my core,–
“Your assignment measures knowledge that you’ve taken into your core–
It’s that simple, and no more.”

“Out in Utah there’s a lake, its elevation you need to take;
Fluctuating with sporadic rainfall events that came before–
Digital data sent through space from such remote a place
Removed, distant from the base; location of our laboratory door
Power consumption must be small, far from our laboratory door;
Save that power evermore!”

“Transmit data every fortnight, when request it, as you might;
From past diurnal events; use computer, I implore,
Show how to do this thing; block diagram, specs, and everything;
Written solution you need to bring, bring to my office door
In seven days at noon without excuse bring to my office door–
Or it’s up a creek without an oar.”

As I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the prof whose fiery words now burned into my very core,
This and more I sat divining, with my head no more reclining
Fully aware of my new assignment to be brought to his office door.
How I loathed that unkempt office with the hard wood office door
The sign attached says: Nevermore.