Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Rhyme a Crime?

Have you had much poetry in your life? I’m not sure every rhyme that has been part of my world should be designated “poetry” but I think of it that way. Ü

Nearly every morning when I was growing up, Grandmother and Granddad would come next door and chat with us while we had breakfast. I don’t remember how the habit got started, but we loved it.

Dad and Granddad would talk about work that needed to be done in the family business, Grandmother would catch up on what all the kids were doing and the kids would enjoy some grandparent time.

If it was summertime and one of us kids stumbled to the table a little late, Grandmother would quote,

“Good morning, Mary Sunshine! What made you wake so soon? You scared away the little stars And shined away the moon.”

A few years later when my #1 son was born, Mom used to quote a poem to him.

“Little Danny Donkey didn’t like to wash his ears. At breakfast every morning Danny’s mother sent him back to do his washing over ’cause his ears were simply black!

“They say he’s doing better now, and oh! I hope it’s true.”

Mom had trouble remembering one word in the last sentence–

“I’d hate to be so **** and so naughty, wouldn’t you?”

(If you know what that miss word is, please let me know.)

Dad had a couple of poems he’d quote to us. I planned to look up one but I can’t find it.

It started out, “Comanches on the hilltop, six trappers on the plain. A cut and a slash with our skinning knives and our saddle mules lie slain.”

That’s not perfect or I should be able to find it on Google. 😦 It’s by a man whose last name started with V. Vestre, I’m thinking. *sigh*

Dad used to “quote” (paraphrase would be a better term) another poem. When we were trying to get out the door to go some place (with six kids, it’s never easy to get everyone ready and out the door on time) he’d say,

“So lets be up and doing with a heart for any fate! Still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait!”

If we were in a real hurry, he’d shout,

Let’s be up and doing!”

I never really thought about where the quote (paraphrase) came from until a minister quoted from it at my mother’s funeral. (Actually, it was my mother’s, grandmother’s, aunt’s and two nieces’ funeral.)

Because this preacher wasn’t part of our household, I seriously doubt he knew Dad quoted the poem to us. I think it was one of those times when God was speaking to us. Reminding us that He was there when we were kids at home, He was there when the tragedy happened, and He is here, now.

It’s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A PSALM OF LIFE 

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Long Fellow

What Dad “quoted”  was from poems he had to memorize as a kid. If I remember right, kids had to memorize so many lines before they could go from one grade to the next.

That isn’t part of the curriculum anymore. I have to wonder why, though. The memory is strengthened like a muscle. The more you do, the more you can do.

Sometimes we find the old ways are best. This might be one of those times. After all, Alzheimer’s Disease didn’t seem as rampant back then!