Ecchoes (they reverberate)

(cross-posted by qB whose cold is now flu and is not up to much today)

Today is National Poetry Day

The Ecchoing Green

The Sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring.
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells chearful sound.
While our sports shall be seen
On the Ecchoing Green.

Old John with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk,

They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say.
Such shuch were the joys.
When we all girls & boys,
In our youth-time were seen,
On the Ecchoing Green.

Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end:
Round the laps of their mothers,
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen,
On the darkening Green.

William Blake,
Songs of Innocence and Experience

egIf you click on the leafy shape at the top left of this page you can listen to Allen Ginsburg singing the poem. As well as three other people of whom I have never heard. It’s quite a surreal experience.

The theme Britain. I chose this because it’s been with me most of my life, probably from not long after I finally learnt how to read at a very late age. It was in an old illustrated anthology of poems for children which was handed down to me by my mother. Of course it’s not specifically about Britain, but I thought I could sneak it in because Blake never left the country and was passionate about his homeland.

I have always loved the deceptive simplicity of the rhythms and imagery of The Ecchoing Green. I also looked at the illustration of the children being embraced by their mothers with a fair amount of longing. Together they capture those long-lit days of summer when we roistered round the village. I could feel the grass, the trees, the stones, with that whole-body physical abandon with which children experience the world.

Not far from our house in inner-suburban-London there is a small park. We pass it every day on the way to school. At this time and in this place we have just such an ecchoing green. No matter that the mothers are in lycra with mobiles. No matter that the children play games based on pokemon or teenage mutant ninja turtles. Or barbie or the powerpuff girls. It is the fundamental continuity that is reassuring in a world which often seems so full of uncertainties, difficult choices, information overload, cynicism and despair. All that has changed in the dynamics of the picture are the ephemera. My children gain comfort and reassurance from me (and I from them) in exactly that tableau.

When I was a child I was a child in the poem. Now I am a mother I can be both. And now too I can look forward with hope in this continuum to the consolations of old age.

The anthology was called The Dragon Book of Verse – not the edition from the OUP but an older collection, published in 1939. It’s been lost, of course, in all the wanderings and dissolutions, which is sad. The smell of it was slightly sharp, acidic almost, the paper yellowed. The hardback covers were red. I remember so many of the poems: Tartary by Walter de la Mare for the lines And in my pools great fishes slant Their fins athwart the sun; Cargoes by John Masefield; The Fairies by William Allingham; Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti; The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning – I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I memorised many of them, learning them like incantations, caressing the multicoloured jewel-words, sounding the sonority, riding the rhythm. It must be where words and I met and our love affair began. So I have my mother to thank for that.

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