Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"...if Amy Lowell had it"

The hyperallergenic presumed Mountain Laurel
As I was photographing the hyperallergenic bush growing over the fence from my neighbor to the west, which I think is a mountain laurel (I'll check), whose blooming is dreaded by those prone to running eyes and aching sinuses, I remembered, as if the page were before me, a book of light verse that my grandfather had.  I think it was the summer, 1945, when we children were sent to visit them; I was eleven years old, if so. 
From the parodic verse, quite clever to this day, part of a set titled "Hay Fever" I learned that there was a poet named Amy Lowell, and if this parody was any good I might recognize its sources in her own work.  It was my first lesson in literary criticism.
But I'd forgotten the name of the clever parodist.  It was the charming versifier Christopher Morley, a man of letters well known at the time.  I knew him for one of my favorite verses in the anthology "Silver Pennies", on a child remembering having animal crackers and cocoa as a favorite treat.
Morley's verse taught me that children in other social classes and transoceanic societies had different mores from mine of the 1930s in California, and, of course, so did A. A. Milne's Christopher Robin and Robert Lewis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses".  My grandparents liked these themselves and gladly read them aloud to me, over and over, till I knew many by heart.  If you want to know one more way of raising literate and broadly imaginative children, read quantities of good children's verse to them, some of it neither up to date nor of your own community.  And, please, forbear explaining too much.  Let them wonder and gradually put it together.  The song of "Dark brown is the river, golden is the sand; It flows along forever with trees on either hand..." eventually elucidates much more than can be explained away.
I just checked Wikipedia s.v. Mountain Laurel, and I'm still not sure that my picture is that plant, which the map provided does not indicate for Louisiana.  Anyway, it's pretty, but I'm not about to eat it, any more than I'd suck on our Confederate Jasmine (below) to find out whether it's sweet, as honeysuckle is.  Bees do like it, though, and it is intensely fragrant, in bloom right now.
Confederate Jasmine
Confederate Jasmine, one warm day later