Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dobell, Stevenson, Tennyson, Scott, Blake, Shelley … did you have a favourite poet when you were a child? A century ago, Kenneth Grahame put together a collection of poems from some of the most well-known and packaged them as The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children. In his preface he explains how he chose the titles and concludes that the collection “is chiefly lyrical.” He says, “it is but a small sheaf that these gleanings amount to; but for those children who frankly do not care for poetry it will be more than enough; and for those who love it and delight in it, no ‘selection’ could ever be sufficiently satisfying.” I couldn’t agree more—there is something for everyone, even the not-so-young-anymore.
Take a look at the Contents of both Parts 1 and 2 and see if your favourites are there. Some of mine are—Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tiger”; Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”; Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”; Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot” … let’s face it, there aren’t many that I don’t like. There are some I hadn’t recalled for a long time, and some I don’t remember, but it’s been fun reading them all. Here are some samples.
For the Very Smallest Ones, “I Saw a Ship a-sailing”:
I saw a ship a-sailing,
A-sailing on the sea;
And it was full of pretty things
For baby and for me.
And “Kitty: How to Treat Her”—I remember it word for word:
I like little Pussy, her coat is so warm,
And if I don’t hurt her she’ll do me no harm;
So I’ll not pull her tail, nor drive her away,
But Pussy and I very gently will play.
Do you remember “The Butterfly’s Ball,” by William Roscoe?
“Come, take up your hats, and away let us haste
To the Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast;
The Trumpeter, Gadfly, has summoned the crew,
And the revels are now only waiting for you.”
Or “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” by Eugene Field?
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe—
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”—
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
and perhaps Charles Kingsley’s “The Old Buccaneer,” a great one for reading aloud:
Oh England is a pleasant place for them that’s rich and high,
But England is a cruel place for such poor folks as I;
And such a port for mariners I ne’er shall see again
As the pleasant Isle of Avès, beside the Spanish main.
This book summons up visions of family and friends, sitting around an open fire, each taking a turn at reading his or her favourite verse and perhaps talking about what makes it a favourite … is it the story, the words, the rhythm, the metre, the rhyme, the magic?… It’ll be something different for all of us. Hope some of you reading this will enjoy the book as much as I have.
This post was contributed by a DP volunteer.