I was delighted yesterday to find online Alison Lurie’s New York Review of Books May 1st Rapunzel reviews and essay, “The Girl in the Tower“. Which brought to mind the delightful poem below by the late Liverpudlian painter and poet, Adrian Henri, from our copy of The Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for Children, with a foreword by the late Cornish poet, Charles Causley (1917-2003). From Causley’s foreword:
What do we mean by the phrase ‘poetry for children’? For me W.H. Auden, writing of the work of the great Walter de la Mare, answered this question once and for all. ‘It must never be forgotten,’ he said, ‘that, while there are some good poems which are only for adults, because they pre-suppose adult experience in their readers, there are no good poems which are only for children.’
I remember wondering, in my earliest years as a primary school teacher, why my so-called ‘poetry’ lessons invariably fell flat, although made up of what I believe to be perfectly acceptable ‘children’s’ verse of the day: simple songs and jingles, light verses about animals, comic tales of those who were judged to be ‘characters’, and the like. All these offerings were accepted politely by my captive audiences, though clearly without much enthusiasm. Shamefully, I had failed to remember the excellent advice of a wise and experienced tutor. ‘Never forget,’ he had said. ‘Feed the lambs.’
I’ll continue with Charles Causley’s foreword next week for Poetry Friday. In the meantime, I’m off to feed the lambs.
Any Prince to Any Princess
by Adrian Henri (1932-2000)
August is coming
and the goose, I’m afraid,
is getting fat.
There have been
no golden eggs for some months now.
Straw has fallen well below market price
despite my frantic spinning
and the sedge is, as you rightly point out,
I can’t imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the Golden River,
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately froggish.
I hope that the Three Wishes granted by the General Assembly
will go some way towards redressing
this unfortunate recent sequence of events.
The fall in output from the shoe-factory, for example:
no one could have foreseen the work-to-rule
by the National Union of Elves. Not to mention the fact
that the court has been fast asleep
for the last six and a half years.
The matter of the poisoned apple has been taken up
by the Board of Trade: I think I can assure you
the incident will not be
I can quite understand, in the circumstances,
your reluctance to let down
your golden tresses. However
I feel I must point out that the weather isn’t getting any better
and I already have a nasty chill
from waiting at the base
of the White Tower. You must see the absurdity of the
Some of the courtiers are beginning to talk,
not to mention the humble villagers.
It’s been three weeks now, and not even
a cold, black wind
howls through our empty palace.
Dead leaves litter the bedchamber;
the mirror on the wall hasn’t said a thing
since you left. I can only ask,
bearing all this in mind,
that you think again,
let down your hair,
* * *