Thursday, May 12, 2011
Number 153: Alfred Noyes "Daddy Fell Into the Pond"
Daddy Fell Into The Pond
Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And then there seemed to be nothing beyond,
Daddy fell into the pond!
And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click!
Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft,
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.
Oh, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
Daddy Fell into the pond!
-- Alfred Noyes
Hap Notes: Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) is probably familiar to you as the author of "The Highwayman." a poem that was required reading when I was in junior high. Don't know if it's taught so much today. It would be a pity if it weren't taught since it has all the elements kids like in a story: a beautiful girl, a handsome thief, sadistic bad guys, ghosts, a jealous vengeful stable boy, tragedy, fancy clothes (okay, maybe the lacy sleeves and velvet coat was only something in which I was interested.)
Noyes's dad taught Latin and Greek and he grew up in Wales. He reputedly missed a test for getting his degree at Exeter College because he was in a meeting with his publisher. He published loads of poetry over his lifetime, including a long poem which was a three book series (The Torch Bearers), a long blank verse poem on Sir Francis Drake and poems on Robin Hood and much, much more.
The BBC did a poll in 1995 of Britain's favorite (excuse me, favourite) poems and Noyes' Highwayman was listed as 15th. Curious about the 14 ahead of him?
Here's the list:
15:Alfred Noyes - The Highwayman
14:William Henry Davies - Leisure
13:Dylan Thomas - Fern Hill
12:Thomas Gray - Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard
11:Christina Rossetti - Remember
10:William Butler Yeats - He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
9:John Keats - Ode To A Nightingale
8:Wilfred Owen - Dulce Et Decorum
7:William Butler Yeats - The Lake Of Innisfree
6:John Keats - To Autumn
5:William Wordsworth - The Daffodils
4:Stevie Smith - Not Waving But Drowning
3:Walter De La Mare - The Listeners
2:Alfred, Lord Tennyson - The Lady Of Shallott
1:Rudyard Kipling - If
Noyes was capable of light verse as today's poem illustrates (note how Noyes gardener, sort of like the stable boy in "The Highwayman" is a somewhat interesting side character.) He wrote books and short stories, and, in fact, may have been the first author to use a "doomsday device" in a novel (which is a pretty common plot for current movies and most comic books.)
Here's a good Noyes quote. Noyes was a pacifist but before America's involvement in WWI he said: "If the people can't be worked up to the stage where they will be willing to ignore private interests for a while, we may as well devote ourselves to the philosophy of the expression "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
You can find more Noyes here: www.poemhunter.com/alfred-noyes/
Here's an audio of "The Highwayman" : www.youtube.com/watch?v=99UH0JB7m5A&feature=related