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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Old Autumn, and Letters - to Rats?


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! And - just like that - it's October?!


Possibly my favorite month, with bright skies and crisp air and color and anticipation of gathering with family before tucking in a bit for winter. Multiple threads in the weave, for sure, as we all balance heaviness and sorrow in the news (praying for eveyone out West right now, especially) with our own moments of joy and light in a day.  So I've got both pensive and playful here today.


First, these lines from Thomas Hood (I DO have to find out if there's some ancestral connection!), who lived from 1798 to 1845 and opened his poem, "Autumn," with these words:


     I SAW old Autumn in the misty morn
     Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
     To silence, ...


and, a later passage:


         But here the Autumn melancholy dwells,
     And sighs her tearful spells
     Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.
     Alone, alone,
     Upon a mossy stone, 
     She sits and reckons up the dead and gone
     With the last leaves for a love-rosary,
     Whilst all the wither'd world looks drearily,
     Like a dim picture of the drownèd past
     In the hush'd mind's mysterious far away, 
     Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
      Into that distance, gray upon the gray.


For a cathartic read of the entire poem, click here


But if you rather need a wry smile instead - or in addition to - I have that too, below the next paragraph. 


Tonight I'll finally re-open my little studio doors after six-plus months for our downtown's First Friday celebration.  (My space is small; if we get more than a person or two, folks will have to mill about in the hallway outside! And masks are required.)  I'm offering a free, optional activity if visitors want to help spread some cheer.  We'll be providing blank cards to convey messages to some of our locally based service men and women who are deployed.


With these thoughts of letter-writing, my heart was warmed when, searching for October inspirations, I again consulted my copy of THE ILLUMINATED BOOK OF DAYS (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1979) by Kay & Marshall Lee, with illustrations by Kate Greenaway and Eugene Grasset, mentioned a couple of weeks ago & earllier, too. 


Just under the listing for October 4 as the Day of St. Francis of Assisi (a personal hero), an October 5 listing explains that "There is an old American belief that you could get rid of an infestation of rats by writing them a letter and persuading them to go elsewhere.  The letter should be rolled up and put into one of their holes."  Then follows an example, a letter dated October 5,1888:


Mssrs. Rats and Co.,

-- Having taken quite a deep interest in your welfare in regard to your winter quarters I thought I would drop you a few lines which might be of some considerable benefit to you in the future seeing that you have pitched your winter quarters at the summer residence of ***No. 1 Seaview Street, I wish to inform you that you will be very much disturbed during cold winter months as I am expecting to be at work through all parts of the house, shall take down ceilings, take up floors, and clean out every substance that would serve to make you comfortable, likewise there will be nothing left for you to feed on, as I shall remove every eatable substance; so you had better take up your abode elsewhere.  I will here refer you to the farm of ***No. 6 Incubator Street, where you will find a splendid cellar well filled with vegetables of (all) kinds besides a shed leading to a barn, with a good supply of grain, where you can live snug and happy.  Shall do you no harm if you heed to my advice; but, if not, shall employ "Rough on Rats."




(Are you, as I, wondering what the letter writer might have had against the poor farmer of Incubator Street?  Ha!  Still, here lies evidence that civility was once valued on many levels, and here's a raising of a glass of Victorian lemonade to the hope that it returns at the highest level.)


Also, another glass raised to Irene Latham for a brand new book in the nest, THIS POEM IS A NEST.  Congratulations, Irene! Here's a link to Irene's interview with the book's fabulous illustrator, Johanna Wright. 


AND, speaking of links, I'm delighted to join many fellow Poetry Friday pals on this list from Feedspot:  Top 40 Children's Poetry Blogs & Websites To Follow in 2020.  Click here to see the list, and many familiar faces! (Many thanks, Feedspot Folks.) 


The ever-civil, ever-wry, ever-compassionate Tabatha has our Roundup today here. Thanks, Tabatha! 

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