Some poetry goes with kids as naturally as peanut butter goes with jelly. I remember the special delight I used to take in the poems in A.A. Milne's When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six because they just seemed so much fun to me. They were the constant companions of my childhood to the point where even now, more years later than I'm about to tell you, I can recite quite a few of them.
Looking back, I think I liked them so much I memorized them because, to start with, there aren't many adults in them. Even the monarchs act like kids. Who can forget the king who went into a tizzy because his cow, no respecter of royalty, wouldn't give him any butter for his bread? And I remember being deeply mystified by King John who, and I'm quoting Milne here, "was not a good man, he had his little ways, and sometime no one spoke to him for days and days and days." But I identified with him, too, and with his choice of ways out of his funk -- a way that would have suited me just fine if only my grown-ups had understood --which was getting a big red India rubber ball for Christmas.
Furthermore, in almost all of old A.A.'s poems, however bitter his son may have been about his stint as Christopher Robin, the kids were always right in charge. For a long time, my personal hero was "James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree," who "took great care of his mother though he was only three." And when his mother went off by herself after all of James's (commonly known as Jim's) best efforts -- and after all, she knew better -- "Mother said he, said he, you must never go down to the end of the town if you don't go down with me" - -and she got lost, prompting a 50 shilling reward and condolences from the king, the queen, and the prince, well, what did you expect?
I can't even quote a line from one of these poems without getting into their skip-along rhythms. Well, that's another thing I liked. Take the emphatic:"John had a great big waterproof Macintosh. / John had a great big waterproof hat. / John had great big waterproof rain boots. / And THAT said John, is THAT." I rest my case. In fact, all this talk about Milne is making me itch. I know just where When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are on my bookshelf, and I think I'll go get them right now because after all "Now that I'm six I am clever as clever. I think I'll stay six now forever and ever."
Copyright 2007© Lola Haskins
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