Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Glimpse of Literature

I have a deep and abiding love for words. I know some would say this is pretty evident in the sheer volume that proceed from my mouth;) I won't deny that I have the gift of gab but that is not what I'm speaking of right now. I love language, I love the rhythm and meter of a well constructed sentence, I love that the entire emotional experience of a piece can be changed by altering just one single word. I have been known to have goosebumps and get giddy simply over the way a sentence reads. This may make me a bit eccentric....maybe even crazy to some. However, I still love the English language; thus I love literature. I don't mean I have a passing fancy for, or a slight crush on, or a brief love affair with; no I am passionate about the reading all kinds of literature, especially the classics.
My love affair began as a child. We did not have a television until I was 14 years old, so my major form of entertainment was reading. I was so different than other kids my age, the proverbial square peg that could not be jammed into a round hole. My books were not just my entertainment, they were my escape. In them I found the friends I lacked at school, in them I was beautiful and brave, in them I could count on happily ever after or at the very least a hauntingly beautiful tragic end.
It has been very important to me that I pass on my love of literature to my boys. Not just a love of reading (which is definitely a first step) but an understanding and appreciation for classic literature (even if we can't get to the big L love I have for it). My job has been infinitely complicated by two things. 1) I have all BOYS. It's not that boys can't love literature but as a whole they would much rather blow something up in a video game or toss a ball around than sit still and read some "Sappy books". 2) 4 of my BOYS are on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a communications disorder. When my boys read anything they go straight for a literal interpretation. The moon being a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas (we'll get back to this in a minute) just about blows their brain gaskets.
Honestly, my boys can't escape the classics. I often just go around quoting some tidbit, not because I'm all that smart but because I just love the way the words of Shakespeare or Keats or Longfellow sound as they trip lightly off the tongue. However, since I have begun homeschooling I have made it a point to quote a little more often. My boys never know when I'll just break into verse. I keep it funny and add all kinds of crazy dramatization but none the less they are being exposed to the classics.
Today my son, Alex, was being a bit overly dramatic about the mention of cleaning. I just started quoting Hamlet's soliloquy to him off the cuff, adding his name in silly spots to grab his attention. After my impromptu performance Alex groaned and said "Mom, stop using Shakespeare against me!!" First, I was delighted that he recognized the piece as Shakespeare (granted it is one of the best known pieces of Hamlet but still I was pleased) but I also never want them to associate literature to something that is forced. I decided that right then and there was a great time for a sneaky literature lesson. After a few minutes, giving them time to move past Shakespeare, I began to recite Alfred Noyes The Highwayman in my most dramatic fashion (Anne Shirley would have been know Anne from Anne of Green Gables:) At first, they were all busily doing their own thing but three lines in I had a captive audience. They sat and listened to the whole piece, even Benny (my youngest who doesn't sit through anything more than 3.5 seconds long;).
I was bombarded by questions at the end "Why did he call the moon a ghostly galleon when ,everyone knows, the moon is made of rock and orbits the earth and in no way resembles a galleon?" "BTW what is a galleon?" "Why did the highwayman go back and die?" This question Jamie answered with his own commentary "It was to teach you a lesson Benny." Benny asked "What lesson" Jamie shrugs his shoulders " don't know". Alex pipes in "Obviously he was trying to teach you that men do CRAZY things for love!" Thus we had a full fifteen minutes of discussion on Alfred Noyes' poem. I don't think I could have been half as happy if I were dissecting it with experts and peers in a college literature class. My heart was nearly bursting with excitement, so much so I came and immediately penned this blog. After some pretty discouraging weeks in homeschooling and autism departments, it was fabulous to see a glimpse of my hard work paying off. It is these little glimpses that keep me going when at times I feel like giving up and finding a different school option. The road map of our lives is never unfolded all at once. All one can do is walk the path in front of them and wait to catch a glimpse of what is to come. Today's slight glimpse gave me hope. In leaving I give Alfred Noyes classic The Highway Man (it's one of my favorites). Lots of love friends-Kristine

The Highwayman



THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.


Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—


"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."


He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.



He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.


They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.


They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!


She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!


The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .


Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!


Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.


He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.


Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *


And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

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