Walter De la Mare was born in England in 1873. He was raised in a Victorian landscape of childhood that presented a dichotomy of poetic views. On the one side, there were the irreverent and humorous authors like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, while on the other, poets of a more traditional approach, like Christina Rosetti and Robert Louis Stevenson were also firmly planted on the shelves of the nurseries of England.
Perhaps this varied vista shaped De la Mare's talents and ambitions. Like A. A. Milne, who would follow in his footsteps, De La Mare could perform the many tasks of the virtuoso children's author with equal grace. Nonsense, serious poetry, fairy tales, short stories and longer novels for children were all a part of his cannon.
His first major release, Songs of Childhood, was published in 1902. It included popular poems such as Tartery, and Bunches of Grapes. Like Stevenson, De la Mare could speak in his poetry with an authentic child's voice - and, also like Stevenson, his works demonstrated a veneration for playfulness and childish flights of imagination.
If I were Lord of Tartery,
His best known collection of poetry for children is Peacock Pie, from 1913. This jumble of rhymes included one that became famous, Alas! Alack! about a fish that calls out melodramatically from the confines of a frying pan. My personal favorite De la Mare poem is Bones, in which a Mr. Smith goes to a Doctor Jones to complain about his bones.
Said Dr. Jones, "Oh Mr. Smith,
Copyright © 2001 by Kevin Shortsleeve
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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:01 EDT