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That rapped up version of the classic nursery rhyme is from a wonderful cd from Music for Little People called Toddlers Sing -- something good to fill your house with during young people's poetry week. Nursery rhymes are, of course, the place where, as children, we first hear poetry chanted, sung, and thoroughly enjoyed. Many of the nursery rhymes that we pass down to our children make little sense to us today, though at the time when they first appeared they were popular ditties, sung in the fields, on the road, and around the hearths and in the taverns of England and America. They were verses about political leaders, current events, occupations, ethnic and gender stereotypes -- part of the busy world of oral culture that is constantly being recreated, even today, in our print and media-saturated society.
Then, as now, kids quickly learn the jingles and songs that they hear around them, -- today they're soaking them up from t.v. commercials, their parents, siblings and friends, at preschool singalongs, in play groups. Then, as now, nursery rhymes provide us with one of those basic ways that we, literally, tune ourselves to our world -- its rhythms and metaphors, its sounds and syntax. I remember a friend's young son used to jump on the bed, endlessly repeating, "Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he," timing his jumps and landings to coincide with the beats of the poem, quite literally learning language kinesthetically. It didn't make any difference whether or not young Nathaniel in Chicago knew that there was an actual king of England named King Cole, and that he reigned in the third century a.d. All that mattered was that the poem had a good bounce to it. The great British poet, Dylan Thomas, said that he became a poet because of Mother Goose -- she was his first love, and through her he fell hopelessly in love with language. Think of your favorite rhyme, the one that you still can't get out of your head, since last week or your childhood, and you'll know exactly what Thomas means. Because we all flipped over language once, as children, when we got involved with the dramas of Jack and Jill -- and those old, anonymous rhymes still have the power to weave their word magic, to lay down a spell through the mystery of language that is at the heart of all poetry:
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Today's program featured the following work:
Copyright 2004 © John Cech
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