Songs of Childhood (Large Print)

by Walter De La Mare Author

(From Amazon): The poetry of Walter de la Mare sings boldly and beautifully without any of these hedges and condescensions. His work has the honest candor of the border ballads and the fairy tales: as well as unmitigated joys, they are full of the dangers and horrors and sorrows that every child soon knows to be part of the world, however vainly parents try to veil them. A child's curiosity about the forbidden will insist on being satisfied; and better by verse than otherwise. This poetry is also musically astute and demanding; it may surprise and alert the parental reader; and it has its share of archaisms and poeticisms, which, contrary to adult surmise, bemuse and fascinate children. And it must be admitted that it is also relentlessly British; but then, so is much good children's literature. As a poet (he was also a gifted novelist and short-story writer) de la Mare was praised by T. S. Eliot ("the delicate, invisible web you wove") and by W. H. Auden ("there are no good poems which are only for children"). His technical and linguistic skills are not, as Auden rightly points out, a matter of indifference to children, who are in the very business of learning language, as well as other facts of life, and who are particularly sensitive to verbal rhythms, as Iona and Peter Opie have splendidly demonstrated in The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Just as important, this is a poetry of charms and spells, witches and dwarfs, ogres and fairies, full of dangers, omens, riddles and triumphs. In "The Ogre," for example, two sleeping children are about to be plucked by an enormous ogre from their home: Into their dreams no shadow fell Of his disastrous thumb Groping discreet, and gradual, Across the quiet room. But he is stopped, spellbound, abashed and defeated by the mother of the children, who is in another room and, all unaware of the danger, is singing a version of the Coventry Carol (which, in its original, is addressed to the Christ Child) as a lullaby to her new-born baby. I would guess that any child fortunate enough to grow up with these poems ringing in memory's ear might have a remarkable reservoir of music and excitement available to him. That is not a small gift.


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