Wednesday, June 13, 2012

52 Poems (week 43)

I've been trying to find classic poems that are appropriate for young children, things that aren't just silly or funny, but are serious and simple. It's not easy, especially now that the childrens market for just about everything has exploded. Yes, I am partial to Sandra Boynton, but I'm also craving something beyond hippos and farm animals for Dear Boy. I'd like for him to love older poems for their musicality and the beauty of the words.


One poem that fits the bill is William Blake's 'Poison Tree' which I'd memorised in high-school for some reason or other. The first stanza rolls off the tongue with all those 'wraths'.
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
But this isn't a new poem... and the point of the 52 Poems posts was to find new ones. This is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Answer to a Child's Question'... yes a bird features, but it steps up a notch on the regular birdy fare.
Do you ask what the birds say? The sparrow, the dove,
The linner and thrush say, "I love and I love!"
In the winter they're silent - the wind is so strong;
What is says, I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving - all come back together.
But the lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings; and for ever sings he-
"I love my Love, and my Love loves me!" 
This, by Robert Louis Stevenson, is a little silly, but a good compromise when most of the others are full of gods, Jesus, hymns and prayers: 'My Shadow'.
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest things about him is the way he likes to grow-
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.
He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

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