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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Number 280: William Allingham "The Fairies"

The Fairies

Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather.
Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and gray
He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music,
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen,
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back
Between the night and morrow;
They thought she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite?
He shall find the thornies set
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather.

-- William Allingham

Hap Notes: William Allingham (1824-1889) was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland and worked at posts in custom houses as he wrote poetry. (Hap, what the hell is a customs house? Well, usually the term refers to an office for government officials that process the paperwork for the importation and exportation of goods.) He wrote poetry throughout his life. Today's poem is much quoted from the Willy Wonka movie to books by Terry Pratchett.

Allingham may be most famous for his copious diaries and records of his friend Alfred Tennyson. He is often referred to as the Boswell to Tennsyson's Dr. Johnson. He is much more than that, though. William Butler Yeats referred to him as a "minor immortal" and told Allingham's wife that he was "sometimes inclined to believe that [Allingham] was my own master in Irish Verse, starting me in the way I have gone whether for good or for ill." He was also friends with Carlyle who influenced him to take an editorship with Fraser's Magazine.

Both Yeats and Allingham believed in fairies, by the way.

Allingham also wrote under the names D. Pollex and Patricius Walker. In his book of poetic thoughts, Blackberries, written as D. Pollex, he writes "England! Leave Asia, Africa alone/ And mind this little country of thine own."

In today's poem, by the way, the places Columbkill, Slievleleague and Rosses are all places in Northern Ireland. Columbkill is a particularly interesting saint, also, by the by. Allingham's reputation suffers because he has that glib touch of the Irish blarney. His verses are so smooth that they are often considered too easy or trite. Today's poem is so well known that it makes this judgment impossible, really. His verses are easily read and charming. You could do worse.

Allingham's last words were "I am seeing things you know nothing of" and were oft repeated by Tennyson in his aging years.

In one of Allingham's diary entries about Tennyson he relates how an innkeeper had kept a poem of Tennyson's that the poet had written on a piece of butcher paper and had left in his room. The poem, Allingham is stunned to find out upon seeing a copy of it, was Tennyson's "In Memoriam" his famous requiem on the death of his friend and the poem was a favorite of Queen Victoria.

Here's a little bonus poem of Allingham's:

Let Me Sing of What I know

A wild west Coast, a little Town,
Where little Folk go up and down,
Tides flow and winds blow:
Night and Tempest and the Sea,
Human Will and Human Fate:
What is little, what is great?
Howsoe'er the answer be,
Let me sing of what I know.

You can find more Allingham here:

It's Saturday so here are our cartoons:

But first, Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt. I always think of this melody when I read Allingham's poem:

Some fairies and fairy art:

Here's a charming leader for a documentary on Faeries:

Gotta have the Fantasia fairies in "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, I s'pose:

If you can stand another rendition- here's someone playing the Glass Armonica (invented by Benjamin Franklin) with ""Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies":

This is so odd I had to share it:

Fairytales toys:

And the Star Fairies toys:

Okay, enough with the fairies. Here's the palate cleansing Pixies with the only song of theirs I can even remotely stand, "This Monkey's Gone To Heaven": I suppose I could have used Black Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots" with our theme, too. More yuk.

I'm indulging myself now with some music to clear my head of the crappy music and sugary fairies toys. Love that Hubert Sumlin guitar, too. This is my idea of magical beings. Howlin' Wolf with "Smokestack Lightning": I feel better now.

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