More Phyllis McGinley, from her collection, A Pocketful of Wry (1940). This is a poem she wrote in response to a news item, which nowadays is nowhere to be found online. I can’t find any mention of the American Library Survey Report she mentions, which I suspect may have been an American Library Association report, in the thirties.
Address to the Younger Generation
by Phyllis McGinley
“Children want facts, not fiction, in their reading.” — Excerpt from
American Library Survey Report.
And is it truth you want, and doings factual?
Then from the shelves take down these volumes first.
Here are your heroes. These are real and actual.
These will assuage your thirst.
Turn from the spurious air your elders thrive in
To this more shrewd and honest atmosphere:
The literal world that Mowgli was alive in,
Where Robin slew the deer.
Your minds are tough, my loves, and with compliance
Can bear the truth. So see you get it learned,
How there are ghosts and dragons, yes, and giants,
And frogs to princes turned.
Learn about mermaids, winds among the willows,
Knights, gnomes and monsters; read of the shepherd boy
Who fled with Helen over the wine-dark billows
And brought the ships to Troy.
These are the verities, and you are able
To comprehend them. Leave your elders with
Their ever-changing scientific fable,
Their blind, Utopian myth.
Leave them their legends built on creeds and isms,
Allow them their political fairy tales,
Spun out of conquests, wars and cataclysms,
And not-too-holy Grails.
While you, enlightened tots, shall sip the chalice
Of perfect knowledge as your peers demand,
And keep thereby the sanity of Alice
Roaming in Wonderland.
* * *
The calendar says Spring, but Mother Nature says not so fast. There is still a big white drift, curved like a frozen wave, just beneath the kitchen windowsill. And yesterday after lunch the boys set off on skis across the pasture and through the Hundred Acre Wood to their hideaway, the old trailer given to them by their uncle, to bring back 40 pounds of camping equipment (mostly pots and pans from the sounds coming from the basement), to “get it ready” for Spring camping. The boys in particular never seem satisfied with the season we’re in. They’re always looking ahead, to the next season and the next holiday. From their mother they seem to have inherited the idea that planning is at least half the fun.
The kids are busy putting the finishing touches on their poems, and rehearsing away with their songs and musical theater pieces. The music festival begins a week from Monday, and that is our big day, with both speech arts and vocal, from 9 am to 9 pm. Then we can rest until Wednesday, when Laura has one piano piece to play in the afternoon. I still need to borrow one more umbrella, for the “Singin’ in the Rain” number, since one of ours does not have a curved handle and my young Gene Kelly is finding it hard to hang on to. Next Friday, some of the crew from the kids’ play are coming over to film some segments that will be played in the background, so I’m supervising some extra spring cleaning and sorting out what to feed the hordes who will descend on us.
Wednesday evening at our monthly naturalist club meeting we enjoyed a lively but dire presentation from a retired professor of wildlife biology on Alberta moose and winter ticks as well as on new, emerging diseases threatening various species of animals around the world, from white-nose syndrome in bats in the northeastern US, Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease, the chytrid fungus in amphibians around the world, the squirrel pox in the UK carried by interloping gray squirrels that is devastating the indigenous red squirrels (which I mentioned briefly and flippantly here), and one of the newest problems, lice in pelicans. On a happier note, we planned our nocturnal owl call survey, the visit to the local gravel pits in search of fossil-containing concretions, the trip to the sharp-tailed grouse dancing grounds (and sadly for me they dance at dawn, more than an hour away from here), and the thrilling snake hibernaculum tour.