Abrams

Editor’s Note:  The death on Tuesday of legendary Cornell professor M.H. Abrams has prompted an outpouring of fond remembrances.

“I knew Abrams quite well as a generous friend and mentor and visited him every few months at Kendall,” says Cornell English Prof. Dan Schwarz in an email. “He was a towering figure in his field and at Cornell which he loved.”

Related: One of the greatest professors in Cornell history has died

Schwarz also allowed us to republish below a terrific poem he wrote to the late professor, “Mike Abrams at 95,” in the interdisciplinary journal “Shofar.” Read it below.

MH Abrams (Courtesy of Cornell)
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Mike Abrams at 95

By Cornell Prof. Daniel R. Schwarz

“It will never be satisfied, the mind, never” (Wallace Stevens, “The Well Dressed Man With a Beard”)

The wonder of it:
Natural Supernaturalism.
At ninety-five walking erect
if slowly, driving
his own car, drawing
hundreds to his lectures.
Totally in command
of self and subject,
grey-hair combed back as
it has been since I met
him forty years ago.

He embodies reality
of gracious aging,
smiling affably, listening–
albeit with hearing aid–
attentively but always with
standards of steel. Generous
to colleagues, vastly read,
disciplined, controlled,
keenly aware of how
his time is measured,
divided. Never showing
pain and strain of his beloved
wife’s decade long
drift into Alzheimer
darkness. Never allowing
anyone to glimpse behind
masque of certainty or
lamp of inspiration.
Speaking graciously, even humbly,
knowing Nortons and Glossary—
accomplishments
that outdistance old age–
will defy mortality, be
mirror of what he is.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.