Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet, artist









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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
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Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
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Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire http://www.kathleenduey.com

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Some Golden Laughs... "Detention Hour"

September 28, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, 19th Century, children's literature, poetry, school poem, Golden Days, Detention Hour


September is tossing us a few hot-potato days here in the Southeast as we stand on the brink of October… but cooler temps are promised for coming days. In my slightly toasty studio, I decided to pull out some copies of GOLDEN DAYS – a newspaper/magazine “for girls and boys” published in the late 1800s (Philadelphia: James Elverson, Publisher) to see if I had any September issues. Voilà! I found one dated September 11, 1897.

Any poems inside? Well, yes - a couple.

This one made me laugh, so perhaps it can tide us over until the SNL season premiere Saturday night.



            DETENTION HOUR
                by John W. Ellis


The golden sunlight floods the room,
      The flies wheel to and fro,
And throught he open window comes
      A hum of life below.
Three boys, before a battered desk,
      Survey with hopeless gaze
a page of algebra bestrewn
      With x’s, b’s and a’s.

Before a blackboard scribbled o’er,
      In quite a careless way,
with scraps of knowledge gathered from
      The labors of the day,
The master sits with pencil blue,
      And marks without a blench
The erring sum, the misspelt word,
      The French that is not French.

All silent sit the prisoned ones,
      Save when a far-off shout
Brings visions to their restless minds
      Of merry scenes without.
Then inky hands grasp tumbled hair,
      And, like a distant sea,
A murmuring rises through the room
      Of mystic formulae.

And so, throughout a tedious hour,
      The loud clock ticks apace,
Each youth intent upon his book
      With studious, frowning face,
remembering on yester eve
      How simple seemed each rule,
When some inviting game obscured
      The coming morrow’s school.

And now at length the captives rise,
      Each gazing on his book,
And sidle to their jailer’s seat
      Snatching one furtive look.
They stumble through the dreaded task,
      Then cast their books aside,
And speed through the deserted school
      To the glad world outside.

And now the creeping hour is past,
      The silent striving done.
Rebellious z and stubborn y
      Fly with the sinking sun;
And to the east with satchels full,
      Three scholars march with glee,
While westward, with a sober step,
      Departs the dominie.




I couldn’t find any information about this poem online. The only historical John W. Ellis I came across was the pro-slavery governor of North Carolina who lived from 1820-1861. Did he write humorous poetry that an editor would pluck up a few decades later? Hmmm. Somehow that doesn’t seem plausible, but I’m not sure.

An Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840 –1916) was an American author who did write for young readers and had many different pen names! He was also a teacher, school administrator and journalist, according to Wikipedia.

Well, if anyone knows, I’m happy to be enlightened.

I did look up a couple of words in this poem – “blench” means to shrink or flinch; a “dominie” is a schoolmaster.

Perhaps the helplessness before algebra got me, or the line that tickled me the most, “The French that is not French.” (Le français qui n'est pas français?) Ha!

Merci for visiting, and be sure to sashay over to Writing the World for Kids, where lovely Laura has this week’s Roundup.

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