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Poetry thread a little late: The Harp Weaver

Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Dec 22 2012, 2:44pm

Post #1 of 7 (134 views)
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Poetry thread a little late: The Harp Weaver Can't Post

I forgot all about the poetry thread on Thursday, and I wanted to post the Ballad of the Harp Weaver. Be sure to have a hankie handy, especially if you listen to Johnny Cash's version


The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Son,” said my mother,
 When I was knee-high,
“you’ve need of clothes to cover you,
 and not a rag have I.

“There’s nothing in the house
 To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with,
 Nor thread to take stitches.

“There’s nothing in the house
 But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
 Nobody will buy,”
 And she began to cry.

That was in the early fall.
 When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
 Makes your mother’s blood crawl, —

“Little skinny shoulder-blades
 Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
 God above knows.

“It’s lucky for me, lad,
 Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
 His son go around!”
 And she made a queer sound.

That was in the late fall.
 When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
 Nor a shirt to my name.

I couldn’t go to school,
 Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
 Passed our way.

“Son,” said my mother,
 “Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
 While you take a nap.”

And, oh, but we were silly
 For half and hour or more,
Me with my long legs,
 Dragging on the floor,

A-rock-rock-rocking
 To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
 For half an hour’s time!

But there was I, a great boy,
 And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
 To sleep all day,
 In such a daft way?

Men say the winter
 Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
 And food was dear.

A wind with a wolf’s head
 Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
 And sat upon the floor.

All that was left us
 Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
 Nobody would take,
 For song or pity’s sake.

The night before Christmas
 I cried with cold,
I cried myself to sleep
 Like a two-year old.

And in the deep night
 I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
 With love in her eyes.

I saw my mother sitting
 On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
 From I couldn’t tell where.

Looking nineteen,
 And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
 Leaned against her shoulder.

Her thin fingers, moving
 In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
 Wonderful things.

Many bright threads,
 From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
 Rapidly,

And gold threads whistling
 Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
 And the pattern expand.

She wove a child’s jacket,
 And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
 And wove another one.

She wove a red cloak
 So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
 I said, “and not for me.”
 But I knew it was for me.

She wove a pair of breeches
 Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
 And a little cocked hat.

She wove a pair of mittens,
 She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
 In the still, cold house.

She sang as she worked,
 And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
 And the thread never broke,
 And when I awoke, —

There sat my mother
 With the harp against her shoulder,
Looking nineteeen,
 And not a day older,

A smile about her lips,
 And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
 Frozen dead.

And piled beside her
 And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
 Just my size.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



(This post was edited by Aunt Dora Baggins on Dec 22 2012, 2:47pm)


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Dec 23 2012, 3:02am

Post #2 of 7 (42 views)
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Wow, I have never heard of this before! [In reply to] Can't Post

It reads like an old folk tale, like the shoemaker and the elves with such a tragic twist. Who is the author?

It also reminds me a little of the Menotti Opera, Amahl and the night Visitors (my favorite Christmas special growing up!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_03iA_QvfWw


(This post was edited by Ethel Duath on Dec 23 2012, 3:03am)


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Dec 23 2012, 3:26am

Post #3 of 7 (34 views)
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For the season--something old and something new. [In reply to] Can't Post

(1863) http://www.poets.org/...dia.php/prmMID/16819

(2012) http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/244814


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Dec 23 2012, 3:28am

Post #4 of 7 (29 views)
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Edna St. Vincent Millay [In reply to] Can't Post

She won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1923.

Yes, I love Amahl. I have it on LP. Our player is broken, but I listened to it over and over when I was younger and could probably sing most of it from memory. I love the song about the magic box :-)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Dec 23 2012, 3:31am

Post #5 of 7 (24 views)
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I love both of those. [In reply to] Can't Post

Longfellow's poem is so poignant, amid the horror of the Civil War. The one about the mail carrier is new to me. What a lot of lovely images!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Ethel Duath
Valinor


Dec 23 2012, 3:38am

Post #6 of 7 (82 views)
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Yes, that's a "family song" [In reply to] Can't Post

or phrase, anyway. Anytime we find ourselves picking up one of those useful, square cardboard things, we start singing . . .

The original T.V. version was lost, I thought, but it turns out some versions of the production with most of the old cast are available and on sale! I got one on Amazon a couple of years ago (http://www.amazon.com/...d+the+Night+Visitors).

I have the L.P. too.Smile


Morthoron
Gondor


Dec 25 2012, 3:51am

Post #7 of 7 (88 views)
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One of my Favorite Christmas Songs... [In reply to] Can't Post

A Christmas Song by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull)

Once in Royal David's City stood a lonely cattle shed,
Where a mother held her baby.
You'd do well to remember the things He later said.
When you're stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties,
You'll just laugh when I tell you to take a running jump.
You're missing the point I'm sure does not need making
That Christmas spirit is not what you drink.

So how can you laugh when your own mother's hungry,
And how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I just messed up your thoughtless pleasures,
Remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song.

(Hey! Santa! Pass us that bottle, will you?)


Here's the song...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdalBvgNAxI

Happy Christmas!

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Dec 25 2012, 3:53am)

 
 

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