Tag Archives: Walter de la Mare

The Year of the Child

Did you know that 1979 had been the International Year of the Child?  I had forgotten that until I came across a book my daughter bought me that year because of my love of poetry.

Book - I Like This Poem

The book is a compilation of poems chosen by children for other children.  When the book was put together in 1979 it was “the only collection of poems in existence, chosen by children”.  Kay Webb, Editor.  I wonder if it still is.

Webb goes on to say that the poems were winnowed from over 1,000 ‘enthusiastic recommendations made by children’.  Of course, many poems were submitted more than once and the most popular, Walter de la Mare, AA Milne, Lewis Carroll, Robert Lewis Stevenson among others, were submitted over and over.

The children were asked when making a submission, to also tell why they liked that particular poem and their responses are telling.

The book is divided into age sections – the 6/7 year olds say things like ‘it makes me laugh’ ‘because it would be funny if that happened’ ‘because I like owls and pussy cats’.  The 8 year olds go a little more into detail ‘because it gives me pictures in my mind’ ‘because we have a cat just like Macavity and he is a thief too’.

An 11 year old commenting on his choice “Pleasant Sounds” by John Clarke says ‘because each little picture in the poem seems to have its special sound.  I think it’s a very comforting poem….I have noticed when I have been saying the lines out loud, there seemed a sound echoing itself later in the line.  Strange – but it could just be imagination’  Great from an 11 year old child.

Do you know Walter de la Mare’s Silver –
“Slowly silently now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way and that, she peers and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees….”

A 13-year-old comments ‘This poem describes moonlight how I imagine it, all slow and silent but with just a bit of movement which is the harvest mouse.”  Isn’t it great that already that child was seeing the beauty in the words and the pictures they created?

And so on through the choices of the 14 and 15 year olds.  Obviously these are more sophisticated choices and include such poems as “Ozymandias” by Shelley, “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare (still one of my all time favourites), “Memorabilia” by Robert Browning and then “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.  Wilfred Owen’s poem would of course, resonate/appeal to teenagers with it’s clever, clever use of words to paint the horror of war.  Our commenting child says “..because it’s beautiful rhythm and the way Owen has used words .. I love the ‘stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle’ because all the rs really do suggest gunfire, as does ‘stuttering’. ”  Her comment is one of the longest in the book and goes on to say “The poem is so sad and so lovely, and my favourite.  When I am feeling cross with someone, or ill-tempered with the world in general, I read it and it reminds me that some have gone through hell, and perhaps my troubles are smaller than I previously thought.”  Great insight from a 15-year-old girl.

And now 22  32 years later, (thanks Jenny at SkiingMama for the correction) I wonder where all those children are.  I wonder what they have done with those years and what they have become.  No doubt some have become writers and maybe even published writers.  But in any event, early in their lives they became aware of and learned to appreciate well written poetry.  And I hope that some of what they learned in reading the poems has stayed with them through the years, and perhaps given them comfort and guidance when needed.

And I shall leave you today with a poem that was one of my son’s favourites from the time I first recited it to him when he was very young

“There’s a breathless hush on the Close tonight,
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
‘Play up!’ ‘Play up!’ and play the game!”
From Vitae Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt.

My son used to be able to quote all the verses, I wonder if he still can? As a small child he liked the rhythm of the words and so found it easy to learn them.

I really love this little book.  It’s falling apart; pages are loose but it holds many of my favourite verses and I shall keep sticking it together forever – or at least until I am no longer here and my children have to decide what to do with my books and other belongings.

Is anybody there?

Couple walking along a deserted beach

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ’d the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
From ‘The Listeners”. Walter de la Mare,
1873 – 1956) English poet, short story writer and novelist.

Sometimes when I start my daily blog I wonder whether in fact there is anybody out there interested in the ramblings of an elderly English woman.  And then I look at the number of visitors to my site and the number of hits and tell myself these can’t be all family and friends.  So a big thank you to whoever is reading my blogs.

And sometimes when I sit down to write the blog I am confronted by a blank screen (the writer’s equivalent to a blank page in the typewriter) and try to think what I will share with you today.

So today building on the theme is anybody out there I picked the quotation from The Listeners.  From a very young age, I have loved Walter de la Mare’s poetry and still have a prized copy of ‘Come Hither” first published in 1957 and have spent many rainy afternoons stuck in the pages of this book.

When I was growing up poems were meant to have rhymes, stanzas/verses and meter.  I am reading much newer poets these days and a new favourite is James Rainsford.  Now for today’s post…

It is autumn here and the sun is shining brightly today.  In New Zealand, we are energy conscious and many people dry their laundry on clotheslines outside.  So today I can see my neighbour’s washing dancing on the line.

Washing on line

And when I look at the washing dancing in the notorious Wellington wind I think back to when my children were small and I too had lines of their washing out in the sun.

And then I started the memory lane trip once again.  I seem to be doing this a lot recently.  I thought about school days and how different they were for my children in three different parts of the world.  In Scotland they were very young, my daughter was in the first two years of primary school and my son only attended nursery/preschool.  They both started preschool at 3.

My daughter was 7 when we moved to Auckland, NZ and she attended the local primary school for a term before transferring to a school situated on the beach.

Takapuna Beach

The beach at Takapuna

Our house was on the beach and she used to walk to school along the beach, dressed in her school uniform, satchel on her back and shoes in her hand.  So different from Glasgow.

At 5 my son went to school in town and so had a bus ride to a school founded on the Scottish education system by a Presbyterian minister.  Some unnecessary information for you here – St Kentigern (or St Mungo) is the patron saint of Glasgow hence the name of the school – St Kentigern Primary.  He missed out on the walk along the beach but not the uniform or the satchel.

Then to Montreal where they both attended the same school.  I learned recently that the school was closed in 2006.  Here they learned to brave the winters and play winter sports.  In class, they learned more French but according to French friends I made while living in Montreal it was not true French and in fact, I often had to translate for a French friend from Paris.

Then back to New Zealand.  The children picked up where they had left off and all was stable for about a year and then we moved to Wellington.  So two new schools for the children.

But all this chopping and changing didn’t seem to affect them very much.  The grew up to be two well rounded, caring people as I have said many times before.

So on to today – Now occasionally I hang my grandchildren’s washing on the line.  Lines and lines of socks, underwear, shirts, pants etc.  Do they have more clothes these days or do they just leave them in a pile until their mother (or grandmother) lifts them and puts them in the wash?  Then when they are dried, the clothes are ironed or folded and put away to be worn again, discarded after wearing and eventually washed again.

Laundry in basket

And today’s quote –

“Have you ever taken anything out of the clothes basket because
it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing?” –
Katherine Whitehorn
, 1928,  British journalist, writer, and columnist