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Echoes Out of Time

Oh, please indulge me one last visit with poetry before we continue along our way?

Life is a journey. We meet many people. Let’s meet two couples, an Indian boy, and one who sings about the music of nature.

the-keys-to-canterbury                                                                Source: YouTube

The Keys to Canterbury
Traditional

If poems are the music of literature, then we, its audience, dance. This ancient traditional ballad is a dance between a gentleman courting a lady and the lady accepting the invitation. Discover this lilting poem (it is also a song) and feel its peaceful rhythm:

http://www.contemplator.com/england/cantbury.html

We keep the theme of journeying in this brief and old Irish or Scottish folk song about a girl and her love, Johnny.

I Know Where I’m Going
Author Unknown

I know where I’m going.
I know who’s going with me,
I know who I love,
But the dear knows who I’ll marry.

I’ll have stockings of silk,
Shoes of fine green leather,
Combs to buckle my braid,
And a ring for every finger.

Feather beds are soft,
Painted rooms are bonny;
But I’d leave them all
To go with my love Johnny.

Some say he’s dark,
I say he’s bonny.
He’s the flower of them all,
My handsome, coaxing Johnny.

I know where I’m going,
I know who’s going with me,
I know who I love,
But the dear knows who I’ll marry.

Listen to its beautiful music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWHxreWIBZ8

From ancient England and Ireland we travel back to ancient America to hear a Native American song,

A Song of Greatness
(A Chippewa Indian Song)
Transcribed by Mary Austin
Source: Anthology of Children’s Literature, 4th Edition, Mary Austin, Children Sing in the Far West (Houghton Mifflin)

When I hear the old men
Telling of heroes,
Telling of great deeds
Of ancient days,
When I hear them telling,
Then I think within me
I too am one of these.

When I hear the people
Praising great ones,
Then I know that I too
Shall be esteemed,
I too when my time comes
Shall do mightily.

Its message is simple, direct, and sincere—a young man’s aspiration.

Finally, we come to see the greatness of nature in

Measure Me, Sky!
Leonora Speyer
Source: Anthology of Children’s Literature, 4th Edition, Leonora Speyer, Slow Wall, Poems, together with Nor without Music (Knopf)

Measure me, sky!
Tell me I reach by a song
Nearer the stars;
I have been little so long.

Weigh me, high wind!
What will your wild scales record?
Profit of pain,
Joy by the weight of a word.

Horizon, reach out!
Catch at my hands, stretch me taut,
Rim of the world:
Widen my eyes by a thought.

Sky, be my depth,
Wind, by my width and my height,
World, my heart’s span;
Loveliness, wings for my flight.

To share these with the middle school children we know is to share words in music and classics that come alive.
Next time, we’ll continue to explore nature in narratives.

 

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A Song Soft & Light ~ in Fields of Gold ~ a Midnight Summer’s Night ~ while Horses Sleep

I’ll continue our praise of poetry and invite you to listen to its music with four more selections, all from mid-20th century, except the third which is from early 20th century.

How many of you love the outdoors as I do? To stand alone in the woods inhaling fresh air, to feel the breeze on your skin and see a sunset on a hill is a precious moment in time.

Poetry’s magic is that it can take you anywhere. Today, it takes us to different scenes: a country hill in spring, through a summer’s field, a moment at midnight, and at a farm’s sunset.

“Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas fernhillSource: Fernhill Lodge Cardigan

O this one! This is deep. I had to read it out loud three times to hear the music and its rhythm, a cadence of half rhyme, full rhyme, and end rhyme. This poem in praise of Dylan’s childhood days on his uncle’s farm in Wales, must be heard to be appreciated.
And what better way to hear it than from the poet himself?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XG1B_7r4y8
It is a song both sweet in the joy of childhood and sad in its loss.

The next poem is a short and simple appreciation of space and time.

“In Praise of Prairie” by Theodore Roethke

prairie
Source: Wikipedia

The elm tree is our highest mountain peak;
A five-foot drop a valley, so to speak.

A man’s head is an eminence upon
A field of barley spread beneath the sun.

Horizons have no strangeness to the eye.
Our feet are sometimes level with the sky,

When we are walking on a treeless plain,
With ankles bruised from stubble of the grain.

The fields stretch out in long, unbroken rows.
We walk aware of what is far and close.

Here distance is familiar as a friend.
The feud we kept with space comes to an end.

Roethke: scholar, Pulitzer Prize-winner, and poet-in-residence at the University of Washington. Thank you Theodore, for a beautiful description of simplicity.

And now we turn to an earlier poet, Thomas Hardy. In “An August Midnight” we see that he observes nature while writing late one night. Insects enter and become his house guests. They know things that he could not. I honor his humility.

an-august-midnight
Source: Hill Shepard

 I

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:

On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a Dumbledore;

While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hand…

II

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space,

—My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.

“God humblest, they?” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

We finally turn to a field and see a scene at the end of the day.
It offers us a dainty way, so far removed from our world, of how horses perceive night fall.

“The Dusk of Horses” by James Dickey

horses-at-dusk
Source: Landscape Photos

 https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/dusk-horses

Thank you for visiting these poems with me and sharing them with the children you know. We’ll pay a last visit to poetry the next time we meet. In the meantime, may you discover new music.

The Music of Literature

Our journey through children’s literature has taken us along the road to metaphor, down the lane to lullabies, past flying books to fables, folktales, and myths. We’ve met heroes and meditated on sacred writing; peeked at fantasy and shook hands with fiction, even met pirates who messed with O!

Now it’s time for a symphony! For the music of literature is poetry. Poems often are rhythm in words. Babies know and understand natural rhythm: whether it be a heartbeat or beating spoons on a table. Children feel rhythm in play: jump rope, bouncing balls and
hide-and-seek.

Poetry has a power to evoke emotions beyond its meaning or use. There is great music in its pitch and rhyme, fresh imagination, intense feelings, and joy with words.

Read poems to children, don’t explain their meaning unless asked, just let the words speak to you and the child. Soon, they will grow up to discover new poetry for themselves.

Here are four poems to think about and discover.

fairy

                                                                 Source: Playbuzz

“La Belle Dame sans Merci” By John Keats

This fantasy of a “beautiful woman without mercy” is nearly two hundred years old.
See what emotions it evokes for you.
Is it a knight’s fantasy? A dying wish? Or both?

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,                 O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?                                     So haggard, and so woe-begone?

The sedge has wither’d from the lake,                The squirrel’s granary is full,

And no birds sing.                                                      And the harvest’s done.

 

 

 

I see a lily on thy brow,                                              I met a lady in the meads,

With anguish moist and fever dew,                       Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

And on thy cheeks a fading rose                             Her hair was long, her foot was light,

Fast withereth too.                                                      And her eyes were wild.

 

 

I made a garland for her head,                                 I set her on my pacing steed,

And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;                   And nothing else saw all day long.

She look’d at me as she did love,                            For sidelong would she bend and sing

And made sweet moan.                                              A faery’s song

 

 

She found me roots of relish sweet,                       She took me to her elfin grot,

And honey wild, and manna dew,                           And there she wept and sigh’d full sore,

And sure in language strange she said                  And there I shut her wild wild eyes

“I love thee true.”                                                       With kisses four.

 

 

And there she lulled me asleep,                             I saw pale kings and princes too,

And there I dream’d—Ah! Woe betide!               Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

The latest dream I ever dream’d                            They cried, “La Belle Dame san Merci

On the cold hill side.                                                  Hath thee in thrall!”

 

 

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,                   And this is why I sojourn here,

With horrid warning gaped wide,                          Alone and palely loitering,

And I awoke, and found me here,                    Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,

On the cold hill’s side.                                              And no birds sing.

 

like-an-open-book

                                                    Source: Thoughts Adrift

 “Books Fall Open” By David McCord
A love song to books. Simple, hopeful, direct.

Books fall open,
you fall in,
delighted where
you’ve never been;
hear voices not once
heard before,
reach world on world
through door on door;
find unexpected
keys to things
locked up behind
imaginings.

What might you be,
perhaps become,
because one book
is somewhere? Some
wise delver into
wisdom, wit,
and wherewithal
has written it,

True books will venture,
dare you out,
whisper secrets,
maybe shout
across the gloom
to you in need,
who hanker for
a book to read.

 

quarter-moon

                                                             Source: Public Domain Pictures

“The Moon’s the North Wind’s Cooky” (What the little girl said) By Vachel Lindsay
Discover this one and you’ll never see the moon the same way again!
http://www.poetry.net/poem/37384

boat-lost-at-sea

                                                         Source: Peanut Butter Hair

“Lost” By Carl Sandburg
Tell school-age children to shut their eyes. Then, read this. They can feel it.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/12845

We’ll continue with the music next time.