Kipling, Lear and Rey en route to Biscayne Bay…

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When the cabin port-holes are dark and green

Because of the seas outside ;

When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)

And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,

And the trunks begin to slide ;

When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,

And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,

And you aren’t waked or washed or dressed,

Why, then you will know (if you haven’t guessed)

You’re ‘Fifty North and Forty West!’

– from “How the Whale Got His Throat” by Rudyard Kipling

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Poetry is boundlessly entertaining.

Studying Rudyard Kipling this month has been a real treat for the kids and I. Kipling was born in 1865 to British Ex-pats and travelled extensively while he was a young student. Although he had a difficult childhood, he was brilliantly blessed with empathy and imagination. It is no coincidence he authored one of our favorite book/movies… The Jungle Book.  Kipling’s poetry is playful, colorful and tries hard to make sense of the world.  In his works, he gave animals human-qualities and reason to the animal-instincts in man. We feel a certain kinship with Kipling, so we decided to study his life, some of his poetry and in particular, his collection of “Just So Stories” published in 1902.

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Kids on a dinghy-adventure in Palm Beach. Playing around/down-time is key for building the imagination.  Imagination is key for writing poetry.

I have included in Sophia’s 7th grade curriculum, a specific study on poetic language. She is learning about hyperbole, similes, metaphors, imagery, idioms, paradoxes, oxymorons, personification, alliteration, symbols, etc…  Understanding these secret ‘codes’ in our language unlocks mystery after mystery for a teenager.  We have both enjoyed this unit of study. Words are only a part of HOW we speak, as the nuances of the english language are infinite.  This. This! is what makes poetry so much fun.

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Beaches are a great place to study poetry. Limited distractions, lots of space for the mind to roam…

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The poem below is one of our all-time favorites, written by Edward Lear. We first read it in Ibiza (2014) and again recently as we were cruising south down the ICW, en route to Biscayne Bay… *Some of our best friends are Jumblies, btw. You know who you are.

The Jumblies

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,

   In a Sieve they went to sea:

In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
   In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’
They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
   In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
II
They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
   To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong
   In a Sieve to sail so fast!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
III
The water it soon came in, it did,
   The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
   And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
   While round in our Sieve we spin!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
IV
And all night long they sailed away;
   And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
   In the shade of the mountains brown.
‘O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
   In the shade of the mountains brown!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
     Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
V
They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
   To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
   And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
   And no end of Stilton Cheese.
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
VI
And in twenty years they all came back,
   In twenty years or more,
And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’
For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
   And the hills of the Chankly Bore;
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, ‘If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,—
   To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.
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We wrote a fair amount of our own poetry this month (which usually happens around Valentine’s Day, anyway!).  And one cannot write poetry without also baking a cake, so… we did that too.

Sophia wrote this poem titled “Life”, as part of a school lesson using symbolism:

Life

In the springtime,

Our paths are many.

We look for roses and clovers,

But sometimes there is rain.

Fall arrives after the sunshine of summer.

In the end, winter sets in.

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Seal Lullaby by Rudyard Kipling

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,

And black are the waters that sparkled so green.

The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us

At rest in the hollows that rustle between.

Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow;

Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!

The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,

Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas.

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 And one more favorite from Sophia and I:

Trust your heart if the seas catch fire (and live by love though the stars walk backward).

– e.e. cummings


ref:

The Poetry Foundation for more on Kipling:  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/rudyard-kipling  |  For more on E. Lear:  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/54364

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/seal-lullaby

“Life” by Sophia Rey, February 2017

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