Natalie Merchant/ Leave Your Sleep: The Man In The Wilderness

Absolutely beautiful: The title of Natalie Merchant‘s new album Leave Your Sleep is taken from a Mother Goose rhyme:

“Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day;
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
and come with your playfellows into the street.”

In the booklet that introduces the two-disk album, she writes,

“This collection of songs represents parts of a long conversation I’ve had with my daughter during the first six years of her life. It documents our word-of-mouth tradition in the poems, stories, and songs that I found to delight and teach her. I pulled these obscure and eccentric poems off their flat, yellowed pages and brought them to life for her. I willed into being this parade of witches and fearless girls, blind men and elephants, giants and sailors and gypsies, floating churches, dancing bears, circus ponies, a Chinese princess and a janitor’s boy, and so many others. I tried to show her that speech could be the most delightful toy in her possession and that her mother tongue is rich with musical rhythms and rhymes. I gave her parables with lessons in human nature and bits of nonsense to challenge the natural order of things and sharpen her wit.”

Thank you to my dear colleague Sarah Gough for bringing Natalie Merchant to my attention, via her performance at TED, which includes an interactive transcript of all songs performed.

The Man in the Wilderness
Mother Goose

The man in the wilderness asked of me,
“How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?”
I answered him, as I thought good,
As many a ship as sails in the wood.

The man in the wilderness asked me why
His hen could swim and his pig could fly.
I answered him as I thought best,
“They were both born in a cuckoo’s nest.”

The man in the wilderness asked me to tell
All the sands in the sea and I counted them well.
He said he with a grin, “And not one more?”
I answered him, “Now you go make sure.”

song of the week :-) englisch lernen mit liedern

Forgotten Language

Forgotten Language
by Shel Silverstein

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?

Ogden Nash: To My Valentine

To My Valentine
by Ogden Nash

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That’s how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That’s how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oaths,
That’s how much you’re loved by me.

Source: oldpoetry.com

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) started work writing advertising copy for Doubleday, Page Publishing, New York, in 1925.
He went on to publish his first book for children, The Cricket of Caradon, in 1925, and his first poem, Spring Comes to Murray Hill, in New Yorker magazine in 1930. Joining the New Yorker in 1932, he was briefly the great Dorothy Parker’s editor. I’ll bet that cost him some sleep. In all, he published 19 books of poetry. Light verse though it was, he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1950.

W is for who

IMG_0019

2 little whos — ee cummings

2 little whos
(he and she)
under are this
wonderful tree

smiling stand
(all realms of where
and when beyond)
now and here

(far from a grown
-up i&you-
ful world of known)
who and who

(2 little ams
and over them this
aflame with dreams
incredible is)

Have a laugh on me: I made a Christmas quiz about what can go wrong at Christmas.

T is for thee

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” is the beginning of possibly the most beautiful love poem ever written, of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

Pity that there is no “Du” in English. The intimacy of “thou, thee, thine”, the “du, dich, dein” we have lost in English, is one of the things that makes German my language of love.

For those of you who were hoping that T is for test, here is a great test of Shakesperean pronouns.

Here’s David Gilmore of Pink Floyd interpreting Sonnet 18:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

– William Shakespeare

Thank you to Leslie of English Desk for this video.

M is for the movers and shakers

Movers and shakers are people who initiate change and influence events, now most often applied to the rich and powerful in politics and business. The public perception of the term began after the first performance of Sir Edward Elgar’s  choral work The Music Makers, in 1912. The work is a setting of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s 1874 poem ‘Ode’. That poem singles out poets and musicians as those who guide our thinking:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

You may know the famous first lines of that poem as spoken by Willy Wonka, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

The premise of Roald Dahl’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) asks: what would an industrial factory engaged in mass production look like if it was built by a fantasist, dreamer, and romantic in a world dominated by pragmatists, realists, and materialists. In this lonely island, Wonka wonders who will inherit his life’s work and hopes that in the next generation of children there might still be romantics. His sampling of youth via the lottery tickets provides a referendum on Charlie’s generation. The selected tourists to Wonka’s candyland are a fools gallery of technocrats, capitalists, hedonists… and opportunists. – Aharon Varady

G is for good

Advent Calendar Day 7 – Keep your eyes peeled for dwarves, elves and other Christmas folk!

Good fences make good neighbors. (Liebe deinen Nachbarn, aber reiß den Zaun nicht ein.)

This 17th century proverb is very popular in America. It means “live and let live” and “respect the privacy of others”.

The saying is so well-known because Robert Frost (1874-1963), one of America’s most beloved poets, included it in his poem The Mending Wall, written in 1914. In it, two men meet to perform maintenance together on their mutual boundary, an act that bonds them and brings them closer together. It is not the state of the fence, but the act of keeping the fence in good shape that makes them good neighbours.

This video interpretation remembering the Berlin Wall (1961-1989) hinges on the first line, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall“. This changes the meaning of the poem into a criticism of walls in general. The soundtrack is a very old recording of Frost reading the poem himself:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”