Exam (1996)

The vast room shuffles its feet, picks up its pen,
Young minds prepare to demonstrate their skill
In learning useless facts. For once again

The nation's thirsty youth has drunk its fill
Of words and numbers; gorged with what they've read
They let their bloated memory overflow;

Answers spill from every silent head,
A tacit shouting-out how much they know,
How much they've learned. But when exams are done,

When these young souls are cast out on life's wave,
When all the walls of their safe schools are gone,
Will all their knowledge have the power to save

Them from the world? Or will they find, anon,
That all their bookish cramming will have earned
Them, is the right to shout in tones of woe

And bitter irony, "How much we've learned,
How much we know."

Written during a French mock A-level exam, 8.1.96

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