Tag Archives: Walter de la Mare

When blood is nipt, drink Hypocras.

When long ago I was beginning to explore the world of poetry for the sake of my children whom I was homeschooling, I ran across this poem by Shakespeare. It’s from the play, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” and every time I read it, especially in winter, it drives the damp and chill right into my bones. That is poetic power!

Notes on words and phrases: Dick is blowing into his hands, or on his fingernails. Joan is likely skimming the pot. The roasted Crabs are apples. People say the owl may well have been the common Tawny or Brown Owl, pictured below.

I’ve transcribed the poem as I found it originally in Walter de la Mare’s Come Hither. In his notes on this entry he gives a recipe for a warming drink such as Dick, Joan and Marian would have welcomed:

“To make Hypocras the best way.–Take 5 ounces of aqua vitae, 2 ounces of pepper, and 2 of ginger, of cloves and grains of paradice each 2 ounces, ambergrease three grains, and of musk two grains, infuse them 24 hours in a glass bottle on pretty warm embers and when your occasion requires to use it, put a pound of sugar into a quart of wine or cyder; dissolve it well, and then drop 3 or 4 drops of the infusion, and they will make it taste richly.”

That recipe doesn’t say that the ingredients are finally heated all together, but I would think so…? The one below, with an owlish theme, is on the rocks – brrr! A cup of Hypocras might feel pretty good today, as I am still “coffing” away, but lacking that I concocted my own steaming drink from ginger tea and Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Almond Beverage. I hope all of you who are in winter are staying warm enough, and merry, too.

Tu-Whit To-Who

When Isicles hang by the wall,
   And Dicke the shepherd blows his naile,
And Tom beares Logges into the hall,
   And Milke comes frozen home in paile;
When blood is nipt, and waies be fowle,
Then nightly sings the staring Owle,
               Tu-whit to-who
               A merrie note,
While greasie Jone doth keele the pot.

When all aloud the winde doth blow,
   And coffing drownes the Parson's saw;
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
   And Marian's nose lookes red and raw;
When roasted Crabs hisse in the bowle,
Then nightly sings the staring Owle,
              Tu-whit to-who
              a merrie note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

-William Shakespeare

Insect friends on the soft breeze.

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I am sitting in the garden, in the corner where the unbelievable salvias and the olive trees have grown up to make a sort of alcove. The three salvias are each six to nine feet in diameter and four feet high; they amazed me by taking a big leap in July and August of their first year. The umbrella is shielding me from the sun, and I am enjoying the insects that make the air alive with their darting and swooping from one flower to another above and all around me.

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The only reason I thought to move out here with my bowl of plums is that my house is so cold. I brought the laptop so I could continue reading Fr. Stephen’s article while I ate, but the fruit drew all of my attention to my mouth, and to the juicy plumminess too intense to consume mindlessly while reading. Now I remember why I planted two Elephant Heart Plum trees last fall — which, by the way, didn’t produce any fruit from their pretty green and white blossoms this season. Pearl brought me some of her plums yesterday; a year ago the mature trees at her new house had been the inspiration for my decision to grow some of my own.

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portulaca
gl9 P1050452 wasp on salvia 9-4-16
Hoverflies are pollinators, too.

 

If I could just sit out here in the soft air, I would most certainly eat less; shivering in the house makes me distracted and uneasy without knowing why, and I unconsciously start stoking the furnace of my body with whatever fuel I can find in the cupboards.

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And being in the garden makes me want to share the experience in words, so I looked to see if I have a good summer poem from a previous year. I’m sure it must be here somewhere, if I only had the patience. While looking I found a verse that is new to me, from Walter de la Mare, about one of the winged creatures flitting about.

After pasting it in (and thereby shaping this article into another Pollinator post) I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be so hasty, and I began to look online for a different poem, maybe about a dragonfly or a butterfly ? which, after all are more to my liking. I also hunted around for a clue to the meaning of “specks of sale” in the poem. Does anyone know? I wonder if sale is a word for salt? [Duh. It was a typo, as commenter shoreacres pointed out below. But from now on I think I will always think of it as a synonym 🙂 ]

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But before any more pages had time to load – I must be too far from the house for the wifi – a common housefly dropped in on me, on my arm, on my keyboard, my shoulder, and he would not be shooed away for anything. I think he sensed what was going on, and wanted me to tell his story, and not another’s. Maybe as soon as I hit “Publish” he will go back to playing.

 

THE FLY

How large unto the tiny fly
Must little things appear!-
A rosebud like a feather bed,
Its prickle like a spear;

A dewdrop like a looking-glass,
A hair like golden wire;
The smallest grain of mustard-seed
As fierce as coals of fire;

A loaf of bread, a lofty hill;
A wasp, a cruel leopard;
And specks of salt as bright to see
As lambkins to a shepherd.

-Walter de la Mare

gl9 P1050431 fly on yarrow crp
some kind of fly on the yarrow

My winding path to the key.

gl P1050286One thing leads to another. I had the sudden and unusual urge to clean my shower door this morning, and ended up spending hours on the bathroom, the bedroom, the laundry area in the garage…. I made myself stop at six o’clock so I could take a walk, which was more of a chore than some evenings, because I had already been on my feet most of the day.

Even so, I didn’t want to take the shortcut, because the sight of the slant rays through the redwood trees at the park is not to be missed. This is where my children played soccer and softball, and climbed those trees, before they were trimmed of their lower branches. I like experiencing the park this way more than the former version, when we used to stand around shivering on the damp sidelines to watch an hour of soccer.

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But getting back to earlier in the day: Before indulging in the flurry of vacuuming and scrubbing, I had followed other, quieter prompts, in the realm of poetry. I was reading some recommendations for anthologies, when the collection Come Hither showed up on my mental path. This was probably the first book of poetry I ever bought. We were homeschooling and I had borrowed Walter de la Mare’s anthology from the library. But I couldn’t renew it forever, and it was clearly a book that one would like to delve into forever. So I splurged on a copy of our own, and my students would leaf through its pages week by week to find an appealing poem to memorize.

Walter de la Mare
Walter de la Mare

In the last months I had forgotten about this book; I knew it was in the spare bedroom on a shelf full of poetry books, and I made a note to myself to get it down and enjoy it again. After this evening’s walk I did that, but I had to limit myself to reading only the first poem, so that I will get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. I also discovered a wonderful article by David M. Whalen, about the anthology and its editor: “Walter de la Mare’s Come Hither.”

He explains the frontispiece address to the “Young of All Ages”: “Anthologies of children’s verse usually fall into sentimentality. They reflect their editors’ attempts at indulgence in feelings that have become unreal to editors and readers both. Come Hither: A Collection of Rhymes and Poems for the Young of All Ages is markedly free of this blot as de la Mare, a Twentieth-Century British poet and author, never left behind the numinous sense of mystery that characterizes childhood.”

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British author Alice Thomas Ellis is quoted in the article as saying that if she could have the Bible and Shakespeare and one other book, when stranded on a desert island, the third book would be Come Hither. The copious notes alone I find fascinating; they are obviously written with the older and even oldest Young in mind, and they lead me always to one more musing .

Here is that first poem of the collection. As the turning of the page will reveal a different offering, and another following that, I feel certain that I will have more to share with you in the future. But as Whalen points out, this one poem already contains everything.

THIS IS THE KEY

This is the Key of the Kingdom
In that Kingdom is a city;
In that city is a town;
In that town there is a street;
In that street there winds a lane;
In that lane there is a yard;
In that yard there is a house;
In that house there waits a room;
In that room an empty bed;
And on that bed a basket–
A Basket of Sweet Flowers
Of Flowers, of Flowers;
A Basket of Sweet Flowers.

Flowers in a Basket;
Basket on the bed;
Bed in the chamber;
Chamber in the house;
House in the weedy yard;
Yard in the winding lane;
Lane in the broad street;
Street in the high town;
Town in the city;
City in the Kingdom–
This is the Key of the Kingdom.
Of the Kingdom this is the Key.