I’m a geek!
It’s official. First one of my favorite followers/blogger buddies referred to me as bookish (and fabulous!), then I met an old colleague this week who laughed (nicely of course!) and called me a geek when I confessed that as a child, I used to pretend I needed to pee after lights out, just so as I could finish reading whatever my latest read was. I would sit in the upstairs toilet with the door closed, cold, hunched and stiff-limbed. The nightlight allowed me to read whatever I was desperate to finish, I’d hide the book in the laundry basket or just make a mad dash back under my covers at the first sound of footsteps up the stairs! I wonder if my parents ever guessed? They should have given me a torch. In addition, of all things, *whispers quietly* I like poetry. I even try to write the odd one or two myself *blushes*.
I’m secretly proud of my geek label of course, or I wouldn’t tell you about it, so while pondering this, it got me thinking about why I’ve always been in love with reading. My late grandmother may have had something to do with it. I was an early reader and she encouraged me to read anything and everything to her (I have few memories of her reading to me - that was what my mother was for!). She was careful to praise me for my reading aloud, which gave me confidence and I still love to read aloud today – mostly to the Little Chap. My Nana also enjoyed telling a good story and, to make us go to sleep at night with happy thoughts, she made up her own tales, (sadly never written or published) about two children and their adventures. She regularly took us to the library. She particularly enjoyed the Romantic poets, and the great Classics – Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens.
The first time I read my favourite poet, William Wordsworth, I was seven or eight and sat, curled up, on the big comfy sofa in her front room, from her beautiful book called An Anthology of Poetry. Nana kept all her poetry books reverently on a shelf in her living room, together with Shakespeare and Dickens. She kept various toys and games, which amused her grandchildren when we visited, in a small fitted cupboard, above which she had cleverly positioned the shelf in question. Did she design this specifically to spark our interest? On the other hand, was it just a fluke? She allowed us to help ourselves to the tiddlywinks, the playing cards, the fuzzy felt or the jigsaws without a qualm, but Nana designated her books “out-of-bounds” and we could only touch or look at them with express permission. Like I said, clever.
This particular book was beautiful, it wasn’t leather-bound but it had a simple, worn, but well looked after cream board cover with a little bird embossed on the front. It was a book of poems such as a lover or, in my grandmother’s case; a doting father might have given a young woman in the 1920s or 30s. When, after her death, my grandfather gave it to me for safekeeping, I was genuinely touched and thrilled.
One poem really appealed to seven-year old me and that was We Are Seven, which at the time I thought was about seven year-olds, having read AA Milne’s “Now We Are Six…!” Hey, I never said I was clever! Written in the first person, the poem is about the poet’s encounter with a naive young child, much as I was. She had six brothers and sisters, I only had two, but I related to it, though thankfully not to the tragedy of the story.
What struck me, even then, as now, was the ever present melancholy of the story and the contrasting sweet, happy, innocence of the child and her insistent, denial that she was left all alone. I was also attracted to the simple, catchy rhythm of the poem, which made it easier for a child to read and understand I suppose, and then there’s the playful, childlike rhyme. I thought I was being very grown up liking a “real” poem but it felt as easy as if I was reading a rather long nursery rhyme.
Anyone still reading? Gee, thanks – *blushes and bestows medal* Do you like poetry too? Do you have a favourite poem or poet? Do you remember the first time you “fell in love” with it?
This geek would surely love to know
Without further ado, I give you “We Are Seven” by William Wordsworth:-
A Simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?
I met a little cottage girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.
She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
Her beauty made me glad.
“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said
And wondering looked at me.
“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.
“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”
“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven!–I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”
Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”
“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”
“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.
“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.
“And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.
“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.
“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”
“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”
“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
‘Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”
Image credit: © Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Corbis
© Mayfair Mum, 2012