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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Number 305: Charles Causley " My Mother Saw A Dancing Bear"

My Mother Saw a Dancing Bear

My mother saw a dancing bear
By the schoolyard, a day in June.
The keeper stood with chain and bar
And whistle-pipe, and played a tune.

And bruin lifted up its head
And lifted up its dusty feet,
And all the children laughed to see
It caper in the summer heat.

They watched as for the Queen it died.
They watched it march. They watched it halt.
They heard the keeper as he cried,
`Now, roly-poly! Somersault!'

And then, my mother said, there came
The keeper with a begging-cup,
The bear with burning coat of fur,
Shaming the laughter to a stop.

They paid a penny for the dance,
But what they saw was not the show;
Only, in bruin's aching eyes,
Far-distant forests, and the snow.

-- Charles Causely

Hap Notes: Performing bears used to be a regular part of entertainment all throughout Europe in the 13th century. The place they were most common was India. A dancing bear does not actually dance, by the way (although who knows, they may do it in the wild...).

Usually the "dancing bear's" nose is pierced, a ring is put through it and a metal muzzle is put on the bear. The "dance" comes from the trainer's stick which is attached to the ring. You'll be happy to know that this practice has ceased most everywhere. Here is a news report talking about the release of the last of the dancing bears in India: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8421867.stm

I know the "dancing bear" is a sad and stupid entertainment but no more so than cock-fighting or dog-fighting which still takes place in America.

Causley's mother and her schoolmates have a typical reaction– first, delight in seeing a bear, then, sadness at seeing how out of place it was, then shame for their part in the process.

Captain Kangaroo used to have a character named "Dancing Bear" but I believe all of us knew it was a person in an exaggerated, almost stuffed animal-like costume.

Here is where we have talked about Causley before: happopoemouse.blogspot.com/2011/06/number-190-charles-causley-green-man-in.html

and here: happopoemouse.blogspot.com/2011/06/number-191-another-charles-causley.html

and here: happopoemouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/number-213-charles-causley-eden-rock.html

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