A Family of Bards

Since it’s International Poetry Month, as well as posting new poems I want to mention some beloved poems of long ago. My Mom F (nee Vance, actually my birth father’s sister who raised me) loved saga-type poems and songs. She told me Grandma & Grandpa Vance also loved poems and could recite long ones. Uncle Steve and Uncle Charley were our family storytellers, but I suspect this love of story and verse goes way back in our Vance clan.

Great Grandma Vance may have picked up this skill too, though she probably never went to school. She couldn’t write her name on the land title to her farm, but signed with an X. However, poems and sagas were learned and recited long before people could read and write.

Five years ago I received a gift copy of Best Loved Poems of the American People © 1936 by Doubleday & Company) where I’ve discovered many well known verses from my childhood. Written in metered rhyming lines these verses were easy to memorize and teachers back then believed memorizing was a good way to exercise the mind.

How many can you remember?
– “For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat…
– “That moss-covered bucket I hailed as a treasure…”
– “If you’re ever going to love me, do it now, while I can know…”
– “Abou Ben Adam (may his tribe increase!)…”
– “The Sabbath day was ending in a village by the sea…”
– “The boy stood on the burning deck…”
— “But a dastard in love, and a coward in war, was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar…”
– “Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie…”

3 thoughts on “A Family of Bards

  1. My score is zero… The only poem I ever learned was in Secondary 2 with Serge Hurbon. We learned Le Vaisseau d’or by Emile Nelligan. I can recite the first two verses – and I’m wretched because I recite them with a Haitian accent to mock the teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought after I posted it that some of these will only be known to a North American anglophone. But I believe English speakers the world over quote “The best laid plans of mice and man…” from Robert Burns’ Ode to a Mouse.
      Thanks for your comment. there are a lot of Haitians in Montreal and I guess, given the latest news from Haiti, there’ll be a lot more coming. The situation has gone beyond fixable there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Or readers of poetry in general 😉 I’m not a regular reader of poetry except the poets I follow here.
        Yes, “The best laid plans…” is universal.
        There were three black people in m school when I went. 2 students and one teacher. He was a sweet man teased mercilessly because he was always full of chalk, which on his very black skin…

        Liked by 1 person

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