Saturday, 19 May 2012

When I was very young

I liked "When we were very young" by AA Milne. I still do. I like "Now we are six" and "The House at Pooh Corner" too.
I also had Hilaire Belloc's nonsense poems and Robert Louis Stevenson's "A child's garden of verses", poetry by Eleanor Farjeon and Christina Rosetti's "Goblin Market".
As my father was doing his degree in English Literature at the time I also heard Wordsworth, Keats,  Hopkins and many others. I did not understand them of course but I liked the sound. My father could (and still can) recite lines he loved.
I was given other poetry and verse at school of course. I did not like it all. After a while "Mulga Bill's bicycle" ceased to be funny. It was just something I had to learn. There were things we were supposed to memorise although I am not sure why some things rather than others were chosen.  I suspect a good deal of it was chosen because it was narrative. The curriculum writers probably thought the poems would appeal for this reason.
I did not have Dr Seuss. None of us did. My mother disapproved of  the writer of "The Cat in the Hat". I do not know why. 
For my 21st birthday I was given a copy of Eliot's "Four Quartets". It is not just any copy. It is handwritten. There are four hand painted illustrations. It was a gift from a friend.  How many hours it took him to make it I do not know but I have hugged every stroke of the pen in it.  
I have other volumes of poetry as well. Once in a while I will pull something from the shelves and remind myself of something. I notice my father does the same thing - something he never did when my mother was alive. I think she was too practical to enjoy poetry.
And there are things I just know and that is good. I was waiting on a railway station platform one day. It had been raining and there were puddles around. A small boy was jumping up and down them in an obviously new pair of wellingtons/rubber boots - call them what you will. His mother and I made contact when he came close to splashing water over all of us and I recited AA Milne,
               "John had great big waterproof boots on...."
He looked up at me and demanded,
               "Say it again..."
And that is the way poetry should surely be?

1 comment:

jeanfromcornwall said...

"And that said John is that"
How I loved so many of the A A Milne poems - I seem to remember my Father reading them to me with great relish - one good thing in our rather fraught relationship.

I still keep my handkerchieves in cardboard boxes.