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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Words, Adorable Words

Me. Swinging. And reciting.
Words are amazing.
Descriptive.
Alliterative.
Explanatory.
Lyrical.
Adventurous.
Romantic.
And I love them.
I learned at a very early age that they could be assembled in ways that were truly magical.
Let me explain . . .
My Dad loves to recite.
Poems, mostly.
On long car trips, he would inevitably break into song.
Or verse.
I especially loved the rhythm of his chosen poetry.
Always there was a story involved.
The boy stood on the burning deck
His feet were in the fire.
The captain said," You're burning up!"
The boy said, "You're a liar!"
The telling was truly magical.
And often educational.
Little Johnny took a drink.
But he shall drink no more.
'Cause what he thought was H2O,
Was H2SO4.
I determined that, when I grew up, I would be JUST LIKE DAD.
When I was five, my oldest sister, then just entering junior high, was labouring over a Language Arts assignment.
Memorizing a poem.
She had chosen, for her effort, the Hillaire Belloc poem, Jim.
A cautionary tale of a boy who runs away from his nurse at the zoo and is eaten by a lion.
What better poem for a young girl to start with?
As my sister laboured over the lines, so did I.
I should probably point out, here, that I couldn't read yet.
My patient sister rehearsed each line to me until I had it.
I should also mention that I really didn't understand what I was saying.
Apart from the whole “boy eaten by a lion” bit.
I followed her around for days.
“What's the next line, Chris?”
She would tell me.
And I would repeat it, ad infinitum, for hours.
Or until Chris got home from school and gave me another.
I'm sure my mother heard, “And gave him tea and cakes and jam and slices of delicious ham” in her dreams.
Moving on . . .
By the end of a week, I had it.
All of it.
Then, the fun began.
For months afterwards, my parents would trot me out at family reunions and local bridge parties to show how their young daughter could recite heart-stopping tales of misbehaviour and woe.
In perfect rhyme.
It could only lead to a career in writing.
Or maybe some 'zombie apocalypse/end of the world scenario.
Hmm. Maybe both . . .

For your pleasure –

Jim 
 By Hillaire Belloc

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when—Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, ``Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!''
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

P.S. I can still remember it . . .

11 comments:

  1. It's a wonder you didn't have nightmares.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was new to me and I love it. Amazing that you still remember it all! I'm starting to see why and how you can write your own poetry - you were steeped in it growing up!

    My grandfather used to recite "The Cremation of Sam McGee" which I must say I did not appreciate then like I would now. When I was eight years old I wasn't keen on it! I've just read it again online and realize that either Grampy never made it all the way to the end - or else I stopped listening! That thing is full of sly humour with a surprise ending!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite an ending! Several of my relatives recited it. All I can remember is the last line, "Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm." Great poem!!!

      Delete
  3. My daughter took several years of Spanish and one she learned to sing "Liar, liar pants on fire. Which she song REPEATEDLY for the whole year whenever her brother opened his mouth. When he got back from Afghanistan they hugged and he smiled and said "Seesis told you I'd be back okay. I wasn't going to give you a chance to sing the Godawful song at my funeral!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, how sweet. And now I'm crying . . .

      Delete
  4. That is seriously impressive. But the poem is a horror story :)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally. You can bet I would NEVER have let go of my nurse. If I'd known what that was . . .

      Delete
  5. I'd forgotten pretty much everything I learned in high school, but when I read H2SO4 my brain immediately told me Sulfuric Acid.
    We learned a slightly different version of The Boy Stood on the Burning Bridge, I don't remember it now, but I remember it was naughty.
    I'm impressed with you reciting such a long poem at age five.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A-ha! Naughty, you say? I'm going to talk to my father!

      Delete
  6. Diane spent many years producing and performing in theatrical productions in our community. She was amazing at learning lines -- in fact, she would usually memorize everybody's parts, ie. the whole play, and was an instant on-stage prompter. Made the director's job so much easier! I know where she got her start at memorizing lines!

    Anonymous Husby Stage-Producer Figure

    ReplyDelete

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