To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I had a moment today.

My tech moved a beaker on the hot plate. I asked why he did that. He did it because he didn't like hearing it sizzle (there was some water trapped beneath it).

I said that that reminded me of "The Cremation of Sam McGee". (Here's a fun reading.)

He didn't know what I was talking about. He has not read poetry.

Not "Lochinvar". Not "The Highwayman". Not "Little Orphant Annie". (I've seen the movie, he said. Not the same story, I said.) Not "Casey at the Bat". Nope, has not read poetry.

Sometimes I feel like an anachronism.

If I am, F is a worse one because she's the next generation. I remember that one day she called me from school, having a fit because in her Brit Lit class they had read Yeats' "The Stolen Child"* and her classmates were saying how cool it was that the fairies were taking the child to make his life better.

F broke her policy of keeping her mouth shut in that class to say, "It is not a good thing to be abducted by fairies!" Her classmates did not agree.

She pointed out that the fairies are giving trout "unquiet dreams" - did that sound like a good thing?

Her classmates pointed out that the child is "solemn-eyed".

"He's bewitched!" she said.

I asked F if they had not read "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". "We just read that in class!" she said. "Thomas Rymer?" *Sigh*.

So we're losing the important parts of our culture that warn us of danger and keep us safe. I fear for the republic.

*Here's the text and here it is beautifully set to music.


theolderepublicke said...

I had thought I was pretty well educated, and I like to read poetry, but I confess that I haven't read most of the poems you mentioned. But I admit that I probably should read more.

I will say, that in my own experience, it takes time to learn how to interpret and experience poetry, and I would like to think I would be less quick to criticize others for their ignorance, perhaps because I, being ignorant about a lot of things myself, know how it feels.

I don't write this comment in the spirit of judgment. And lest I give the false impression that I am humble, I should admit that I tend to be judgmental of others' ignorance about a host of things less important than poetry. I do think, however, it is sometimes important to remember that others don't always enjoy the same level of education and cultural literacy.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Well, I was being a little hyperbolic about fearing for the republic. And I don't mean to sneer at people who don't happen to know things I do, because God knows I have my areas of ignorance.

But I don't see how F's classmates could go from reading "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" in class and then thinking that abduction by fairies is probably benign.

And those poems I mentioned were ones we read in school. They were in our lit books, and either in my daughter's lit books too, or other things we ran across. The tech told me that they read short stories in school, but no poems.

The lack of shared culture does bother me. People can talk about episodes of "I Love Lucy" and that's about the level of shared culture among a lot of folks.

There's also a certain lack of paying attention. During F's freshman year, Bob Woodward spoke at her school. The Honors kids got to hear him free, but when this was expressed to them, there were a lot of blank faces. F told me that when they got out into the hallway she said, "Do y'all really not know who Bob Woodward is?" Long silence, then one girl finally said, "Wasn't he involved in Watergate, with Ronald Reagan?"

But come to think of it, I don't know if that's not paying attention, or just a reflection of F's good high school experience.