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Julian Bauld’s “A Well in the Field”

Upper Canada College Upper School English teacher Julian Bauld is also the school’s poet laureate.

One of his roles is to annually write and recite a poem at UCC’s leaving class ceremony. This year’s version was about a well.

“There are many metaphors for a school, but today, think of this school as a well,” Bauld says of his latest poem.

“Someone builds a school, fills it with knowledge, and then welcomes students. Somebody somewhere built a well and waits for the water to come. You get the idea.

“Today, think of what you have learned, what you now know, and what you can do with it. Knowledge, like water, wants a place to be and you carry it. Like water, it has no beginning and end, and without it we cannot survive.”

Here’s Bauld’s poem:

“A Well in the Field”

Before they hung the city lights

or even made the streets,

before the edge of town was called the edge,

bird and badger,

shepherd and thief,

came to a well in the field.

It doesn’t matter where it stood

or if the stones have fallen loose;

the water is insistent in the ground,

cool and dark

coursing toward

a cut in the earth for release.

Thirst gives us the strangest ache.

To dowse it we must divine,

dig, drop and draw, pull pails upward,

lift then raise,

and drink — to taste

the stones of a brook on our lips.

Some shoulder waterskins when they leave,

others roll barrels, heave pots

to where they are called,

and, within, the water laps

above its heavy weight,

eager to be spilled again.

Which is older? water or the well?

You can ask that question any day

and of almost anything —

thought or books,

love or looks,

both answers will reveal the same.

We carry with us what we know

and soon will put it down

within the many rooms that learn our name,

though when struck with thirst

recall when first

you were drawn to a well in the field.

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