RTW # 176: Poetry

It’s time for a road trip with the amazing YA Highway’ers again!

When I was little, one of my favorite books was one we called “The Thick Book”; a collection of children’s stories and poems that my mom would read from. (After much internet hunting, I’ve discovered that it is actually called “The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature”) While I’ve never been one to devour poetry, I spent hours listening to Mom read “Animal Crackers” and “The Raggedy Man.” That was when I realized that poetry, while often more sparse in its prose, could be just as descriptive and imaginative as a paragraph of words in the middle of what I called “real writing.”

In high school I discovered our family’s copy of the Poetry Anthology. To this day, I can sit down with that collection and be captivated by some of the best work of the 20th century. It is filled with poems like “Black Maps” and “Ozymandias“; the sort of poems that never let you go.

I’ve uncovered a few more classic gems since I’ve been out of school; Carl Sandburg captured me from the moment I read his simple “Fog“, and I will always think of “Chicago” as the “City of the Big Shoulders.” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem” was actually a school memorization assignment that I never appreciated until I didn’t have to memorize it anymore.

But no matter how melodramatic, simple, thought-provoking, or thrilling a poem may be, my favorite still comes from The Thick Book. We would beg for Mom to read “The Duel“, but after the tragic and thrilling conclusion to the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, we would need something to calm us down for the evening.

So then would come another Eugene Field favorite, a perfect ending.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
    Sailed off in a wooden shoe–
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
    Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
    The old moon asked of the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
                  Said Wynken,
                  And Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song,
    As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
    Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
    That lived in that beautiful sea–
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish–
    Never afeard are we!”
    So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
                  And Nod.
All night long their nets they threw
   To the stars in the twinkling foam—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
   Bringing the fishermen home;
‘T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
   As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ‘t was a dream they ‘d dreamed
   Of sailing that beautiful sea—
   But I shall name you the fishermen three:
                     And Nod.
Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
   And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
   Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
   Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
   As you rock in the misty sea,
   Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
                     And Nod.

4 comments on “RTW # 176: Poetry

  1. Colin says:

    I don’t recall being read poetry when I was young–it was always stories. Perhaps that’s one reason why I never really connected with poetry. Thanks for sharing these precious memories, Rae.

    • Rae says:

      There definitely is an art to reading poetry aloud, and I’ve been blessed to have grown up hearing poems read “correctly.” I think that really helps with being able to connect with them.

  2. I’ve never read this one. Thanks for sharing!

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