April is Poetry Month – Day 10

Byron’s Pool … where Lord Byron, Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf and Ludwig Wittgenstein went swimming (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

 

When we were studying World War I earlier this year, we spent some time reading poems by the various “War Poets”.  One of these poets was Rupert Brooke, who wrote several poems about the war.  He died at Gallipoli in 1915 of blood poisoning.  This poem is the fifth in a series of five sonnets that Brooke wrote in 1914.

V. The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust conceal’d;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air.
Wash’d by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

–Rupert Brooke

April is Poetry Month – Day 9

On Sunday, I mentioned my enjoyment of John Donne’s religious poetry.  As a friend mentioned elsewhere, she also likes his love poetry, written earlier in his life.  This is one of my favorites.  Donne’s imagery of two separated lovers as two ends of a compass, where one travels away but always comes back to the fixed point in the center at the end is one of the most beautiful images of love I’ve read.

 

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

by John Donne

AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

April is Poetry Month – Day 8

The Owl and the Pussycat

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

 

II

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

 

III

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

April is Poetry Month – Day 7

File:Tyger.jpg

 

We read selections from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  All of my children much preferred learning The Tyger to learning The Lamb.

 

THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience)

By William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

April is Poetry Month – First Sunday edition

As I mentioned in my introductory poetry post on the 1st, John Donne was the first poet I really noticed.  He started out writing secular poetry but when he became a clergyman in the Church of England, at the King of England’s suggestion, he began to write religious poetry.  His 14th Holy Sonnet is one of his best known poems:

Holy Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–John Donne (1572-1631)

 

 

April is Poetry Month – Day 5

My cat looked just like this!

 

When my children were young, we were given a book of T.S. Eliot’s poems.  Having dipped into Four Quartets and Prufrock and The Waste Land in the past, I assumed that the book was for me and not for the children.  Then I discovered his cat poems.  At dinner one night, I read the first few cat poems to the children and they were delighted.  Soon, it became a habit to read certain ones when we were in the mood.  The Rum Tum Tugger was such a favorite that my middle child demanded to memorize it for school.  I’m posting it today, for poetry month, in honor of my 18yo, who found this poem irresistible when he was 10yo and who still remembers it fondly. I”m also posting it in honor of my cat from when I was a teen and young woman who was the epitome of the Rum Tum Tugger.

 

The Rum Tum Tugger

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He’s always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he’s at home, then he’d like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can’t get out.

Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish then he always wants a feast;
When there isn’t any fish then he won’t eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;

So you’ll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle;
But he’ll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there’s nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

T. S. Elliot

 

 

April is Poetry Month – Day 4

Daddy Fell into the Pond.

 

Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.

We had nothing to do and nothing to say.

We were nearing the end of a dismal day,

And there seemed to be nothing beyond,

THEN

Daddy fell into the pond!

 

And everyone’s face grew merry and bright,

And Timothy danced for sheer delight.

“Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!

He’s crawling out of the duckweed.”

Click!

 

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,

And doubled up, shaking silently,

And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft

And is sounded as if the old drake laughed.

 

O, there wasn’t a thing that didn’t respond

WHEN

Daddy fell into the pond!

Alfred Noyes

April is Poetry Month – Day 3

After we had snow here in Virginia last week, I didn’t think to see these little beauties so soon.  However, as soon as it warmed up last weekend, they popped up in our yard:

Daffodils April 3 2014

To go with these lovely flowers is the classic poem by William Wordsworth:

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

A Favorite Poem from Our House

A Pin Has A Head, But Has No Hair

A pin has a head, but has no hair;
A clock has a face, but no mouth there;
Needles have eyes, but they cannot see;
A fly has a trunk without lock or key;
A timepiece may lose, but cannot win;
A corn-field dimples without a chin;
A hill has no leg, but has a foot;
A wine-glass a stem, but not a root;
A watch has hands, but no thumb or finger;
A boot has a tongue, but is no singer;
Rivers run, though they have no feet;
A saw has teeth, but it does not eat;
Ash-trees have keys, yet never a lock;
And baby crows, without being a cock.

Christina Georgina Rossetti

Who Reads Poetry These Days?

I came to poetry late.  Growing up, my family had one small book of poetry.  The only two poems that I remember from it were Paul Revere’s Ride by H.W. Longfellow and The Daffodils by W. Wordsworth.  They made little to no impression on me.  I read them and wondered why anyone would bother to read poetry at all.  It seemed dull, at best.  In high school, I ended up with the ninth grade English teacher who didn’t believe in old-fashioned things like memorizing speeches and poems like the other ninth grade English teacher.  At the time, I considered myself fortunate to be able to journal and read interesting new books and express myself; looking back, I see that the other students with the old-fashioned teacher who read the traditional books and made them memorize beautiful words had the better portion.

I first really encountered poetry not long after graduating from college.  I was reading a book and came across an excerpt of a poem by John Donne, Eclogue: at the Marriage of the Earl of Somerset

“Now, as in Tullia’s tomb, one lamp burnt clear,

Unchanged for fifteen hundred year,

May these love-lamps we here enshrine,

In warmth, light, lasting, equal the divine.

Fire ever doth aspire,

And makes all like itself, turns all to fire,

But ends in ashes; which these cannot do,

For none of these is fuel, but fire too.

This is joy’s bonfire, then, where love’s strong arts

Make of so noble individual parts

One fire of four inflaming eyes, and of two loving hearts.”

I read this poem over and over and the meaning seeped into me and I thought, “How wonderful!  What else has this guy written?”  So I went to the library and found a book of poetry by John Donne and began to read.  No one told me that John Donne was probably not the best poet with which to start my poetry journey and I only understood a fraction of what I read, but I was entranced by his words, by the ideas, by the images which arose in my heart and mind as I read his poetry so I kept reading.  Then I began to look for poetry in the books that I read and “discovered” George Herbert and Christina Rossetti and others.  What riches!

By this time I began having children and we read Mother Goose rhymes and sang songs together.  When my oldest son started kindergarten, the curriculum I was using included a coloring book with Robert Louis Stevenson poems for children.  I would read the poem and my son would color the pictures.  The next year, another poet was suggested and I began to read poetry to my children as part of school and eventually we read it over dinner or just because we were in the mood.  Bed in Summer by R.L. Stevenson, the Sing Song poems by C. Rossetti, When Daddy Fell Into the Pond by Alfred Noyes, The Sugarplum Tree and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field, The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash, T.S. Eliot’s cat poems, and so many others.  We read and re-read our favorites.  We read Milne’s books of poetry for children and volumes of nonsense verse along with many anthologies.

We began memorizing poems more systematically after I read this post at The Common Room Blog and managed to get my hands on  my own copy of Penny Candy by Jean Kerr so I could read the original chapter the DHM mentions in her post.   With wonderful poetry lists at Ambleside Online, we were off.  Each boy had his own poet and we read a poem daily while each child worked on memorizing a poem.  Sometimes I chose poems for them to memorize; sometimes they chose their own.  They memorized so many wonderful poems and although I don’t know how many of the poems they remember completely, their vocabulary and turns of phrase and ways with words have been permanently enriched.

These days we are reading an anthology of Modern Poetry with my high school senior and Lord Byron with my freshman.  Both boys are memorizing If by Rudyard Kipling.  Sometimes we like a poem, sometimes we are bewildered by a poem, sometimes we hate the poem, sometimes we abandon a poet as being too annoying, but we keep reading poetry because it is part of our lives.

Who reads poetry these days?  Our family does and I heartily recommend that you read poetry, too.  You will be glad you did.