The Love of Poetry

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is CURFEW

Seeing this prompt, one might launch into the latest news in the US, but my thinking goes to that old poem, “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written by an imaginative sixteen-year-old girl from Michigan in 1867, Rose Hartwick Thorpe.

This story supposedly took place during the English War of the Roses. A young woman’s sweetheart is imprisoned for some fault and sentenced to be shot that night at the ringing of the curfew bell. Our young heroine, trusting General Cromwell will pardon him — but Cromwell may come too late — rushes to the church sexton and begs him not to ring the curfew bell.

The sexton insists on doing his duty and turns her away, so she sneaks into the bell tower and when the sexton pulls the rope to ring the bell, she declares that, “Curfew must not ring tonight,” and grasps the bell clapper. Bashed back and forth, she bravely holds on until the sexton gives up. When Cromwell arrives, hears her story and sees her injuries, his heart is touched and he pardons the young man.

This poem was one of Queen Victoria’s favorites, according to Wiki.

It may seem odd that this old poem instantly comes to me, but the penchant is genetic. I love poetry, my Mom F (nee Vance) loved poetry; apparently her mother and father enjoyed reciting long epic poems; and her Grandmother Smith likewise. My Vance uncles were keen storytellers and cousin Linda is working on her own tales, having written down most of her Dad’s stories. I don’t know if there’s actually such a thing as a poetic gene, but evidence would lean that way.

It used to be that school children were given long poems to memorize; this task was supposed to sharpen young minds. Often the verse came with a dash of humor, like this one by Anon., to sweeten the effort:

“The little boys were awfully strong
when Father was a boy.
They’d weed the cornfields all day long
when Father was a boy.
And when the day at last was o’er
they’d go and do up every chore,
Then come and beg to work some more
when Father was a boy.”

I believe young minds were improved by this exercise. Moreover, the concept in a good poem can ripple for centuries. Writers and speakers still echo the sympathetic wisdom of Bobby Burns in his poem, Ode to a Mouse:

“The best-laid plans of mice and man go oft astray
and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy.”

The Loser Wins

Hi everyone,

The daily word prompt over at Jibber Jabber with Sue is BEGIN

I sat down awhile ago to begin, a short story, thinking I’d like to do one of these three-short-paragraph ones, and I was going to pick a quote as my inspiration. But my plans went awry and I ended up with a long, maybe soppy, tale.

Here’s the quote I chose:

“What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better.”  — Wendell Philips

And here’s the tale I wrote to illustrate it:

THE LOSER WINS

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rubberduck1951 from Pixabay

“Hey, girl. Why are you looking so sad? Lost your best friend.”

Finch looked up at the teen leaning on the door frame. One of the Senior boys. She swiped at a tear. “What do you care,” she grumbled.

“No, really, you look shattered. What’s bothering you.”

She glared at him, but could see he honestly wanted to know, so she spilled her sad story. “We played baseball at recess. I hate baseball! I’m not good at it and the others all know it, so when it came time to pick teams, I was picked last. In fact, I wasn’t really picked; I just ended up on Jenia’s team because I was the only one left. She rolled her eyes like ‘Do I have to.’ Then she says, ‘Okay, come on then,’ like I was such a zero. I was, like, totally humiliated.”

“Hey, that’s tough. Some people don’t do tact. They care zip about anyone else’s feelings.”

“That’s her. Miss Always-the-Leader. Then when we played, I was so nervous I couldn’t hit anything, and the others on the team grumbled straight time about me being so slow. The teacher told them to ‘be nice,’ but they just did it when she wasn’t looking. I don’t ever wanna go back to school again.”

“I know where you’re coming from. I got the same thing when I was a twig.”

“You! But you’re a natural at baseball. I’ve seen you play and you make great hits and catches.”

“Now, yeah, but I remember singing the same song as you. Back when I was in grade school, I was the last one picked. Couldn’t run, couldn’t hit. But I really wanted to play so I joined a team playing sandlot baseball. It was misery. I was slow; I fumbled; if I hit the ball it was luck.”

Finch stared at him. “I don’t believe it. What happened!”

“I was ready to quit after the second game, but one of the dads, Bill, was acting as umpire, and he saw I was in the dumps. So after the game he came over and gave me a hug. Then he rattled off this bit of wisdom. I’ve typed it up and pasted it on my wall.”

‘What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better’.

“I got a life-lesson that day, thanks to Bill, who cared enough to help me out. He told me I wasn’t going to just drop into a game and be a star. He said, ‘If you wanna get good at baseball – or anything else in life – you gotta work at it.’ He got me and a couple of other boys to meet him a couple evenings a week at the ball park and we’d practice. He brought his young boys and met us there for a few weeks, explained the game, the moves, and worked with us. After that we went back on the team and all three of us are good players now.”

“Wow! You were lucky. Not all dads are like that.”

“I didn’t have a dad – and I needed one badly. I think he caught that. Same with the others. He did what he could to set us, and his own boys, on a better path.” He fell silent and his smile told Finch he was remembering those good times.

“And maybe you got an education today, if you take it that way.”

“Huh! So what have I learned? I’m a loser? Nobody wants me on their team?”

“You found out you can’t just jump in and be awesome. You can’t be a fast runner if you don’t regularly run. You can’t be a great hitter if you don’t regularly work at it. Have you got a friend or kid brother or sister that’ll play ball with you sometimes so you can get some practice pitching and hitting?”

“Maybe…”

“And take up running. Work at it when you have some free time and you’ll get faster. I promise you. What that dad told me back then has held true for everything I’ve tried so far. Playing ball. Good grades. Making friends. Staying out of trouble. Life isn’t going to hand it to you; you gotta work for it.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“So don’t let today get you down. Call it an education. Do something with what you’ve learned.” He reached down to give her a hand up.

A fresh wave of courage washed over Finch. She was ready to begin again. She reached up and took his hand. “I’ll try.” She let him pull her to her feet. “Thanks a lot…for what you said…and for caring.”

“Sure. See you around.” With a quick wave he headed off.

If Finch hadn’t seen him on the senior boys’ team, she could almost have believed he was an angel.

Rowing With The Flow

Crispina has issued her latest creative writing challenge: CCC #81

“Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.)
You respond with something CREATIVE.”
To see the rules and get the image, CLICK HERE.
And here’s the photo that will inspire us this week:

And here’s my response:

ROWING WITH THE FLOW

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…”

“Oh, Mom. You always come up with those silly little songs. No matter what you see, you have to sing about it.”

“That’s because I’m so old. I’ve heard many songs in my life. It’s all about triggers, my girl. When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

Melissa rolled her eyes.

“Actually, I wish we were rowing down this stream instead of walking beside it. Wouldn’t that be lovely?”

“Yeah. Let’s rent a paddle-boat and do it sometime. I’d go for an espresso right now, though…and there’s a Coffee Kicks two blocks ahead.” Melissa pointed, then sang the latest Coffee Kicks jingle.

Mom chuckled.

Realizing what she’d done, Melissa wailed, “Oh, no – it’s happening already! I’m becoming just like my mother.”

“And your grandma. Where do you think I got it from?”

Melissa sighed. “I’m doomed.”

For Your Child

Here are some thoughts from 19th century American evangelist Billy Sunday. He’s speaking about the concern of a parent for his child, as well as sharing a memory from his own childhood. I believe what he says here applies to all parents.

“As a rule a man wants something better for his children than he has had for himself. My father died before I was born and I lived with my grandfather. He smoked, but he didn’t want me to. He chewed tobacco, but he didn’t want me to. He cursed, but he didn’t want me to. He made wine that would make a man fight his own mother after he had drunk it.

One day a neighbor was in and my grandfather asked him for a chew. (The neighbor bit off a chunk and) He went to hand it back and I wanted some. (Grandfather) said I couldn’t have it. I said I wanted it anyhow. He picked me up, turned me across his knee and gave me a crack that made me see stars as big as moons.

If there is a father that hits the booze, he doesn’t want his son to. If he’s keeping someone on the side, he doesn’t want his son to. In other words, you would not want your son to live like you if you are not living right.

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An old general was at the bedside of his dying daughter. He didn’t believe in the Bible and his daughter said, ‘What shall I do? You don’t believe in the Bible. Mamma does. If I obey one I’m going against the other.
The old general put his arms around his daughter and said, ‘Follow your mother’s way; it is the safest.’ Man wants his children to have that which is sure.”

From BILLY SUNDAY, The Man And His Message by William T Ellis L.L.D. (© 1914)

Note re: Editing
I started this post with the Description + Image block pattern, then went to Paragraph for the quote, inserting an Inline image. You can regulate the image size, but there doesn’t seem to be much control over where the image goes. This is a Superscript.

How and Why

by Edgar Guest

Still as children asking why
adults gaze upon the sky.
Still as children, grownups seek
reason for the comet's streak.

Still to sages, baffling are
sun and planet, moon and star.
On a garden's tiny space
miracles are taking place.

And as children, age explores
God's bewildering out-of-doors.
Questioning, till the day they die,
Life's great mystery -- how and why?
The mysterious Northern Lights have inspired many legends.

Happiness is Home

Today’s prompt at Jibber Jabber with Sue is HAPPY, which brings to mind this verse by Edgar Guest — and I think it’s suitable for Mother’s Day.

H.Roses.Rebekka
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there, to all of you who’ve borne and raised children, also to those of you who have been a home-maker and/or mother-mentor to someone in need of help.

The Joy of Getting Home

by Edgar A. Guest

The joy of getting home again
is the sweetest thrill I know.
Though travelers by ship or train
are smiling when they go,
the eye is never quite so bright,
the smile so wide and true,
as when they pass the last home light
and all their wandering’s through.

Oh, I have journeyed down to sea
and traveled far by rail,
but naught was quite so fair to me
as that last homeward trail.
Oh, nothing was in London town,
or Paris gay, or Rome
with all its splendor and renown
so good to see as home.

‘Tis good to take these lovely trips,
‘tis good to get away,
there’s pleasure found on sailing ships,
but travel as you may
you’ll learn as most of us have learned,
wherever you may roam,
you’re happiest when your face is turned
toward the lights of home.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co