human child

Girl1 was tortured. A huge comprehension. Worse, a poem. As if that wasn’t bad enough, not only was I being enthusiastic about it, I was singing. Then I made her listen to it properly. Never has a girl headed off to school with such alacrity. Escape, escape!

She’s right to be worried. At 10, she’s to be reading some proper poetry and texts. She groaned when I started to rave about Yeats and point out the illustrated poem on the wall (The Fiddler of Dooney), the anthologies- school books, those with added artwork or letters from well known folk. Girl1 has discovered that my ignorance about maths is preferable to my liking for English; I expect her to read the work more than once, to develop an opinion, to write answers of more than two words. How unreasonable can a mummy get?

At her age I hated The Lake Isle of Innisfree; it took years for me to reread and recognise my own Innisfree (it’s the same as my Echo Beach). It took a while to understand the simple power of When You Are Old and the beauty and the sorrow of In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz.

However, I’ve always loved this one …

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W B Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.



Luckily for Girl1, I won’t sing that one. I’ll just make her watch this instead.


6 thoughts on “human child

  1. If you can teach her to love Yeats, speccy, then you’ll have done something absolutely wonderful that will enrich her life.

    Stick at it – offer to sing if she doesn’t read more of him.

  2. School has a terrible habit of putting kids off poetry – that and the fact that there are a lot of very bad poets around too….

    So far only WW1 poetry has registered with the Cherub. But I live in hope of moving on to WW2 yet…

  3. It’s an important crusade; keep inflicting that pain on Girl1. My favourite of Yeats has always been ‘An Irish Airman Forsees His Death’ – such careful, pragmatic romanticism.

    1. My favourite too. Reminds me of Glencree in Co Wicklow where there is a German war cemetery. Beautiful valley.
      There’s an album of WBY poetry put to music called Now And In A Time To Be – which has a good version of He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven on it by Nervous.
      And a crackin’ An Irish Airman… by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Shane MacGowan.

  4. Tinman, it was the singing she was most offended by, so your plan is a good one 🙂

    Macy, I still remember discovering the WW1 poets- the shock, the brutality, the contrast with ‘Adlestrop’ … I definitely appreciated poetry more as an adult.

    Mise, oh thank you for reminding me of that. I hadn’t read it in years, but was awed when you sent me to it.

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