"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Little Boy Blue

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
and his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

"Now don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of his pretty toys;
And while he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue--
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place--
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.

--Eugene Fields

I had memorized this poem from one of my books by the age of five. I loved it, I loved the picture that illustrated it. A book I have now lists it among other inferior poems because it is sentimental. "It oversimplifies," says the book. "It is unfaithful to the full complexity of human experience. It aims primarily at stimulating the emotions directly rather than at communicating experience truly and freshly; it depends on trite and well-tried formulas for exciting emotion; it revels in old oaken buckets, rocking chairs, mother love, and the pitter-patter of little feet."

Well, okay. It may not be listed among the very greatest of poems, but it was just right for a five-year-old who was still very into rocking chairs and mother love.


Paul Bunyan said...

I'm no poetologist, but it seems to me the peotry that really has a lasting impact on someone is an outstanding poem. I think many poems for the lay-folk like me anyway can be to abstract and wordy, like a bunch of ivy league grads trying to sound clever. But maybe that is what poetry is supposed to be. I don't know.

The stuff you mentioned that the auther of the book said made poems sound boring and accessible only to to those in the know...

Case in point:

Roses are red
violets are blue (although I always thought violet was more of a purple myself..)
You are really ugly
and really stinky too.

Perhaps you can write to the author this little gem of a poem:

Roses are red.
Violetes are blue.
You are really stinky
and your poems are too.


pepektheassassin said...

Hey, you really do READ what I write, don't you? Hmmm. Are you still mad at me? Do you think my poems stink?

Paul Bunyan said...

No. I'm not mad. I wrote that before seeing your list. And nothing was in reference to your poems,but defending your love for the Little Boy Blue poem and railing against this guy who says that good poetry has to meet his standards, and probably the standards of other like minded folks.

I guess it may be like punk music for me. That is, there was a time when creating music that others would like and want to listen to could only be written, recorded, and performed by musically adept and knowledgable people. But then punk music happened and connected to a lot of people. It was simple and often times emotional music that eventually changed the world (a pretty grand statement, I know). So, I imagine the author of that book (if he were a trained musician, critic,etc) would have had the same elitist attitude toward music that he seems to have toward poetry and would have used similar words to desribe why punk music was no good.

I'm not into poetry that much so I don't know why I'm writing all this...

I'm done.

GreenishLady said...

Oh my! Out of the mists of time... My sister and I both have the strongest memories of our father singing us to sleep with a version of that song. He might walk around the house singing it, with our door ajar. We often wonder now why he thought it was appropriate subject-matter for little children to go to sleep to, but I loved his voice and have often wished I could find the lyrics somewhere. Thank you.

jenclair said...

While I know this isn't the best of poems, it had the same effect on me in my childhood. What's more, I could not even read it to my children, because my voice would break and tears start up.

Since I almost never cry in real life, Field's "Little Boy Blue" and someone else's (probably anonymous)"Rags, the Dog" can provide catharsis at a moment's notice.

You know you are a "no reply" commenter, don't you? I keep sending replies, only to have them returned by Mailer Daemon. :(

jenclair said...

Go to your blog manager and click on the "Settings" tab, then "Comments" and go down to "Comment Notification Address." When you put your email address there, when you make a comment on another blog, and the comment is emailed to the blog owner, they will be able to reply to your email. :)

When I receive the email notifying me of a comment to my blog, yours has "noreply-comment@blogger.com" in the return address, but most commenters have their email address. This is a personal choice, and you may not want to do this. I like being able to give an email reply to anyone who comments.

About Me

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1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.