When We Were Very Young

I just discovered Miranda Richardson's marvelous audio rendering of A. A. Milne's classic When We Were Very Young and Now We Are SixI had once dismissed the poems as drivel, but her rendition revealed the poems to be exactly what poetry should be.  As Dennis Quinn put it in Iris Exiled: A Synoptic History of Wonder, "The poet really says very little:  something like ‘Look at that!’  The looking involves seeing with our imagination and memory.  Or the poet says, ‘It is like that!’  in which case we see the likeness.  All the devices of poetry are efforts to get at the mystery of what things are.[1]

Milne is a true poet here, with poems not just for children.  However, these are certainly an accessible introduction for children.  The images are striking, the language beautiful, and the emotional range profound and varied.  Here is longing, wit, curiousity, sorrow, relish, triumph, loyalty, tenderness, shock--all the emotions of wonder, if not of vice. 


Here is one poem that especially caught my attention.


"The Wrong House"
I went into a house, and it wasn't a house,
It has big steps and a great big hall;
But it hasn't got a garden,
A garden,
A garden,
It isn't like a house at all.

I went into a house, and it wasn't a house,
It has a big garden and great high wall;
But it hasn't got a may-tree,
A may-tree,
A may-tree,
It isn't like a house at all.

I went into a house, and it wasn't a house -
Slow white petals from the may-tree fall;
But it hasn't got a blackbird,
A blackbird,
A blackbird,
It isn't like a house at all.

I went into a house, and I thought it was a house,
I could hear from the may-tree the blackbird call…
But nobody listened to it,
Nobody
Liked it,
Nobody wanted it at all.

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