Douglas Adams was the man who first united British comedy with science fiction in beautiful matrimony, leaving behind a legacy which can still be felt even in the many years after his death.
Adams died in 2001 but his memory is celebrated by fans each year on International Towel Day, where towels are carried as homage to their significance in the novels.
Today it was revealed that an archivist at Brentwood school discovered a poem written by the 17-year-old Adams. It was written in 1970 as part of an initiation to the upper-sixth’s literary society, featuring the theme of ‘candles’ along with the works of his fellow students (including that of comic actor Griff Rhys Jones).
The full poem is as follows:
by Douglas Adams, January 1970
I resisted temptation for this declamation
To reach out to literary height
For high aspiration in such an oration
Would seem quite remarkably trite:
So I thought something pithy and succinct and clever
Was exactly the right thing to write.
For nights I sat musing
And musing ... and musing
Whilst burning the midnight oil;
My scratchings seemed futile
My muse seemed quite mute, while
My work proved to be barren toil.
I puzzled and thought and wrestled and fought
'Till my midnight oil was exhausted,
So I furthered my writing by dim candle lighting,
And found, to my joy, this of course did
The trick, for I flowered,
My work - candle-powered –
Was inspired, both witty and slick.
Pithy and polished, my writing demolished
Much paper, as I beguiled
Myself with some punning,
(My word play was stunning,)
I wrote with the wit of a Wilde.
I pondered and let my pride burn
At the great acclamation, the standing ovation
Its first public reading would earn.
But lost in the rapture of anticipation
And thinking how great was my brilliant creation
I quite failed to note as I gazed into space
That incendiary things were about to take place:
That which had ignited my literary passion,
Was about to ignite what my passion had fashion'd.
And - oh! - all was lost in a great conflagration
And I just sat there and said 'Hell and damnation',
For the rest of the night and the following day.
(My muse in the meantime had flitted away
Alarmed, no doubt, at the ornamentation
My language acquired with increased consternation.
So unhaply the fruits of my priceless endeavour
Are lost to the literary world forever.
For now I offer this poem instead,
Which explains in itself why the other's unsaid.