Horace Edward Thorner (1909-1981) taught English at Williston Academy from 1943 to 1970, and served as the school’s Librarian. For ten years prior to coming to Williston, he was a practicing psychologist. Such bald biographical data insufficiently describes a multifaceted scholar, collector of and dealer in rare books, antiques, and atrocious puns, coach of the Williston Chess Team, and, simply, a fine teacher.
A prolific author, Thorner’s writings include verse translations of Homer’s Iliad and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a play, The Man Who Shot God, many works of criticism and history, and several volumes of poetry. He is unique among our faculty for having been an elected fellow of both the Royal Society of London and the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
In 1965-66 Thorner, on sabbatical from Williston, traveled around the world. To supplement, or perhaps supersede, his camera, he carried a notebook in which he recorded his impressions in verse. These he collected in The Round World Squared (Hawthorne Publications, 1979). In the introduction he commented, “Each of the poems was written on the spot at the time, proving nothing more, perhaps, than that a man like me does well to keep on moving.”
Here are two selections, the first recorded in the National Archeological Museum in Athens, the second in Bangkok.
The Mask of Agamemnon The golden mask of Agamemnon glares Out of its crystal case upon the world, Each golden hair in place, the gold beard curled, A tribute to the good Herr Schliemann's cares. The careful spade came on it unawares. After some centuries, all banners furled, The image woke. No tides of battle swirled. No longer must it face the Trojan spears As did the living King. The haughty glance No longer seeks out Paris in the field. The wounds of flesh and spirit, both are healed. Helen and Clytemnestra and ill chance Have died, and so the great King looks at us, Weighed in the scales of the almighty Zeus. © 1979, Horace E. Thorner
To a Thai Classical Dancer You come to me from far-off ages, Aeons of jungle-birds and sun, Born of some sun-god's loves and rages, Rainbows and thunder, fleshed in one, One mortal form of deathless beauty, One rhythmic sway of sea and shore One siren song that tells me duty Is to be happy and no more. One loving curve of luring fingers, One heart-deep call of bell and drum, One instant, and the magic lingers Through all my days and nights to come. Where would you call me from my troubles? What paradise of date or palm, What crystal waterfall which bubbles Over the ivory of your arm; What dawn or sunset, gold and amber; What flash of blue and scarlet wing; What little smile shall I remember Until I cease remembering? I shall remember a green chamber, A throne-room for some jungle god. That I was he, I shall remember, That moment when I saw you nod. When in the twilight, spark and ember Made a starred heaven like that above And you and I were God and Love . . . That is the lie I shall remember. © 1979, Horace E. Thorner