Monday, January 5, 2009


I love poetry. I think I got this mostly from my father, although I suspect my mother would object. But Dad was the guy I boozily recited Houseman with. I want Laney to have poetry in her life, to love it like my Dad did and I do.

So after dinner I picked up my favorite poetry collection "Good Poems for Hard Times" compiled by Garrison Keillor (you should all have this collection... it's perfect and does exactly as the title suggests) and turned to a random page to read a poem to Laney. The poetry gods smiled and I landed on the following, which we had a good chat about. Laney and I decided that the poet was probably right about what the Whole Duty of Parents is.

(Listen to me: read it aloud. Poetry should ALWAYS be read aloud!)

Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents

by Frances Cornford

The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where casually they come again.
But when there falls the stalking shade of fear,
You must be suddenly near,
You, the unstable, must become a tree
In whose unending heights of flowering green
Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells,
Where heart-distracting magic birds are seen
And all the things a fairy-story tells;
Though still you should possess
Roots that go deep in ordinary earth,
And strong consoling bark
To love and caress.

Och! I love that! How great is that: "stalking shade of fear"? Did you read it aloud? If you didn't, I bet you missed all the rhymes. Read it again. Aloud, dammit.

Alexander Pope described good poetry as "what oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed." I think that about sums it up.