The Eyes Have it – Fall 2014

Barry Clegg sent along a poem from his book The Beginning of Time to accompany his interview questions.

The Eyes Have It

Barry Clegg

In those bold days I understood

almost everything. Pythagoras,

the periodic table, and Sir Isaac taught me:

this and this and this–

thus this!


The chance to study a musical instrument arose.

With its complex coils of brass,

its heft, pistons, and curves,

the French horn enticed me to a domain

beyond the reach of Science.

A demanding mistress it proved–

surly if neglected, when flattered

willing to pour forth flowing gold,

to weep, whisper endearments,

gallop along with the hunt,

or brazen it out in a brass band.

And fickle withal–triumph and disaster

close as two sides of a coin.

For a decade and a half

we cavorted through the centuries

up to ink-wet manuscripts of the day…

till on a sideways impulse I auditioned

for a first-rate concert choir.


How suddenly splendid to be

splendid, performing to full houses,

broadcast across the country.

The horn was left behind

in its dark case.


As a student once, overdosed

on engineering drawing,

I attempted a portrait of myself.

Having no skill for likeness I

angled out one stolid forthright persona.

To omit the horn would be a deceit.

In that portrait

after fifty years

I detect uncalculated depths:

blocks upon blocks of

inference and deduction,

questioned by that

mercurial instrument –

and the eyes, one geared

for facts and physics,

one more open to doubt.

Here stood then a young man

poised between emotion

and the laws of motion.


Untold youthful adventures

on the high wire of horn playing

ground my musical memories still.Linear self-portrait by a young Barry Clegg: a squiggly drawing of a man playing a French Horn

Should I ever try a second portrait,

the edges would be softer,

few lines quite so straight.

The eyes are good, though,

and the French horn

would remain.

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