26 October, 2010

A few years ago i bought a book called Cursory Rhymes by an early twentieth century writer called Humbert Wolfe. It is lovely, simple, and briefly inspired me.

Humbert Wolfe

It does not do,
it is not well,
To now compare
this Wolfe to El-

iot: Good Tom
who wrote The Waste
Land in such an
amazing haste

He did not find
good translations,
But left the quotes
of other nations’

Pithy sayings
in their own tongue,
And makes me feel
like so much dung ~

My simple lack
of savoir faire
And basic nous
when i am there.

But Wolfe, he’s not
like that at all:
His easy rhymes
don’t cause a fall.

He wrote for child-
ren, i would guess:
His gentle rhymes ~
a Mum’s caress.

And just because
they’re light and fun,
Doesn’t mean that
on the tongue

They have no
value, use, or
Worth; no less
is he a bore.

This good Wolfe,
unlike Big Bad,
Has nice rhymes,
and makes me glad

I read him ~
not like old Tom
Whose poetry
is like a bomb

Shell hitting
in my brain,
To end it all
once again.

07 October, 2010

A Birthday Gift

Thank you, Chenowyth.

The Story of the First Queen Elizabeth
L. du Garde Peach

A Ladybird book! Of all things! An old one, of the style dating back to my very young days, with a brown cardboard cover and a simple blue illustration on it. I’m certain i never owned this one, though i suspect i may have read it before (or had it read to me!), as some of the pages and pictures are familiar. Whether i owned it previously or not (and re-owning books isn’t as childish as it seems, is it?), am i delighted to have been given it for this recent birthday.

The story is, obviously, extremely simple, quick, and well known; it covers, though, all the major points of the Virgin Queen’s story (not including the reason for that nickname!) which are important for young English, or maybe British, children to know. There is a strong focus on the Armada, which covers about four of the fortysix pages of text; this is natural, as is the emphasis on Spenser and Shakespeare, among the greatest luminaries of the Golden Age. The only thing which is missing in any real detail, any explanation of the religious problems, is barely touched upon in passing, as the reason Elizabeth feared Mary, and Mary feared what Elizabeth would do after her death. I don’t think that one could write such a book today ~ this, and the other Ladybirds, is truly an artefact of its time ~ even with the same target audience in mind, and not give more explanation of the issues of religion, especially as they also impinge upon the Armada story.

The joy of this book, though, other than the simple joy for me of seeing something from my childhood, is the emphasis on story: The only way to interest children in history, in my opinion, is to make it memorable, to tell stories, to make the people interesting because of the stories they are part of; only then will they want to learn about the motivations and reasons and historical movements and interpretations. Too much taught history today, and yes, i’m looking at
BBC History magazine, which i love receiving and reading, as well as schoolbooks and teachers, too much, i say, forgets the story in favour of sources, interpretation, explanation, and “understanding”. These latter parts of the subject are important, but they aren’t ~ shouldn’t be, cannot be ~ basic to a child’s grasp of and delight in history. Hoorah for Ladybird and their stories, i say!