Preface Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


A book which needs to be written is one dealingA
with the childhood of authors It would beB
not only interesting but instructive not merelyB
profitable in a general way but practical in aC
particular We might hope in reading it to gainD
some sort of knowledge as to what environmentsE
and conditions are most conducive to the growthF
of the creative faculty We might even learn howG
not to strangle this rare faculty in its early yearsH
At this moment I am faced with a difficult taskI
for here is an author and her childhood in a mostJ
unusual position these two conditions that ofK
being an author and that of being a child appearL
simultaneously instead of in the due order toM
which we are accustomed For I wish at the outsetN
to state and emphatically that it is poetry theC
stuff and essence of poetry which this bookO
contains I know of no other instance in which suchP
really beautiful poetry has been written by a childQ
but confronted with so unwonted a state of thingsR
two questions obtrude themselves how far hasS
the condition of childhood been impaired by notT
only the possession but the expression of the giftU
of writing how far has the condition of authorshipV
at least in its more mature state still toM
come been hampered by this early leap into theC
The first question concerns the little girl andX
can best be answered by herself some twentyB
years hence the second concerns the world andX
again the answer must wait We can howeverY
do something we can see what she is and whatZ
she has done And if the one is interesting to theC
psychologist the other is no less important to theC
Hilda Conkling is the younger daughter of MrsA2
Grace Hazard Conkling Assistant Professor ofK
English at Smith College NorthamptonB2
Massachusetts At the time of writing Hilda has justC2
passed her ninth birthday Her sister Elsa isA2
two years her senior The children and theirD2
mother live all the year round in NorthamptonB2
and glimpses of the woods and hills surroundingA
the little town crop up again and again in theseE2
poems This is Emily Dickinson's country andX
there is a reminiscent sameness in the fauna andX
flora of her poems in theseE2
The two little girls go to a school a few blocksF2
from where they live In the afternoons theyG2
take long walks with their mother or play in theC
garden while she writes On rainy days thereD2
are books and Mrs Conkling's piano which is notT
just a piano for Mrs Conkling is a musician andX
we may imagine that the children hear a specialH2
music as they certainly read a special literatureY
By special I do not mean a prescribed courseI2
for dietitians of the mind are quite as apt to beB
faddists as dietitians of the stomach but justC2
that sort of reading which a person who passionatelyB
loves books would most want to introduceJ2
her children to And here I think we have theC
answer to the why of Hilda She and her sisterY
have been their mother's close companions everY
since they were born They have never knownK2
that somewhat equivocal relationship a childQ
with its nurse They have never been for hoursL2
at a time in contact with an elementary intelligenceM2
If Hilda had shown these poems to evenN2
the most sympathetic nurse what would have beenN2
the result In the first place they would in allO2
probability have been lost since Hilda does notT
write her poems but tells them in the second theyG2
would have been either extravagantly praised orP2
laughingly commented upon In either case theC
fine flower of creation would most certainly haveQ2
been injuredR2
Then again blessed though many of the nursesS2
of childhood undoubtedly are and we all rememberY
them they have no means of answering theC
thousand and one questions of an eager openingA
mind To be an adequate companion to childhoodT2
one must know so many things Hilda isA2
fortunate in her mother for if these poems revealU2
one thing more than another it is that MrsA2
Conkling is dowered with an admirable tact InN2
the dedication poem to her mother the little girlV2
If I sing you listenB2
If I think you knowX2
No finer tribute could be offered by one person toM
another than the contented certainty of understandingA
in those two linesY2
Hilda tells her poems and the method of it isA2
this They come out in the course of conversationB2
and Mrs Conkling is so often engaged inN2
writing that there is nothing to be remarked if sheB
scribbles absently while talking to the little girlsZ2
But this scribbling is really a complete draught ofK
the poem Occasionally Mrs Conkling writesA3
down the poem later from memory and reads itB3
afterwards to the child who always remembersL2
if it is not exactly in its original form No lineC3
no cadence is altered from Hilda's version theC
titles have been added for convenience but theyG2
are merely obvious handles derived from theC
Naturally it is only a small proportion ofK
Hilda's life which is given to poetry Much isA2
devoted to running about a part to study etc ItB3
is however significant that Hilda is not very keenE3
about games with other children Not that sheB
is by any means either shy or solitary but they doM
not greatly interest her Doubtless childhoodT2
pays its debt of possession more steadily than weB
Now to turn to the book itself at the very startF3
here is an amazing thing This slim volume containsG3
one hundred and seven separate poems andX
that is counting as one all the very short piecesS2
written between the ages of five and six CertainlyB
that is a remarkable output for a little girlV2
and the only possible explanation is that the poemsH3
are perfectly instinctive There is no workingA
over as with an adult poet Hilda is subconsciousI3
not self conscious Her mother says that sheB
rarely hesitates for a word When the feeling isA2
strong it speaks for itself Read the dedicationB2
poem For You Mother It is full of feelingA
and of that simple dignified adequate dictionB2
which is the speech of feelingA
I have found a way of thinkingA
To make you happyB
That is beautiful and once read inevitableH2
but it waited for a child to say Poem after poemJ3
is charged with this feeling this expression ofK
great loveK
I will sing you a songK3
Sweets of my heartF3
With love in itB3
How I love youM
Will you love me to morrow after nextD3
As if I had a bird's way of singingA
But it is not only the pulse of feeling in suchP
passages which makes them surprising it is theC
perfectly original expression of it When oneB2
reads a thing and voluntarily exclaims HowG
beautiful How natural How true thenL3
one knows that one has stumbled upon that flashM3
of personality which we call genius These poemsH3
are full of such flashesA2
Sparkle up little tired flowerY
Leaning in the grassN3
There is a star that runs very fastO3
That goes pulling the moonP3
Through the tops of the poplarsN3
There is sweetness in the treeB
And fireflies are counting the leavesN3
I like this countryB
I like the way it hasN3
A pansy has a thinking face a rooster has aC
comb gay as a parade he shouts crookedQ3
words loud sharp not beautifulH2
frozen water is asked if it cannot lift itselfR3
with sun and Easter morning says a gladS3
thing over and overY
No matter who wrote them those passagesN3
would be beautiful the oldest poet in the worldT3
could not improve upon them and yet the readerY
has only to turn to the text to see the incrediblyB
early age at which such expressions came into theC
author's mindU3
Where childhood betrays genius is in the mountingA
up of detail Inadequate lines not infrequentlyB
jar a total effect as when in the poem ofK
the star pulling the moon she suddenly endsN3
Mr Moon does he make you hurry OrP2
speaking of a drop of waterY
So it went on with its lifeV3
For several yearsN3
Until at last it was never heard ofK
Any moreP2
This is the perennial child thinking as childrenB2
think and we are glad of it It makes the wholeW3
more healthy more sure of development WhenL3
the subconscious mind of Hilda Conkling takes aC
vacation she does not nod as erstwhileX3
Homer she merely reverts to type and is a childQ
I think too highly of these poems to speak ofK
the volume as though it were the finished achievementY3
of a grown up person Some of the poemsN3
can be taken in that way but by no means allO2
The child who writes them frequently transcendsN3
herself but her thoughts for the most part areZ3
those proper to every imaginative child FairiesN3
play a large role in her fancies and so does theC
sandman There are kings and princesses andX
golden wings and there are reminiscences ofK
story books and hints of pictures that have pleasedA4
her After all that is the way we all make ourY
poems but the grown up poet tries to get awayG2
from his author he tries to see more than theC
painter has seen The little girl is quiteW
untroubled by any questions of technique SheB
takes what to her is the obvious always and inN2
these copied pieces it is naturally less her ownK2
peculiar obvious than in the nature poemsN3
Hilda Conkling is evidently possessed of a rareD2
and accurate power of observation And whenL3
we add this to her gift of imagination we seeB
that it is the perfectly natural play of these twoM
faculties which makes what to her is an obviousN3
expression She does not search for it it is herY
natural mode of thought But luckily for herY
she has been guided by a wisdom which has notT
attempted to show her a better way Her observationB2
has been carefully but unobtrusively cultivatedB4
her imagination has been stimulated by theC
reading of excellent books but both these linesN3
of instruction have been kept apparently apartF3
from her own work She has been let alone thereD2
she has been taught by an analogy which she hasN3
never suspected By this means her poetical giftU
has functioned happily without ever for a momentY3
experiencing the tension of doubtC4
A few passages will serve to show how wellD4
Hilda knows how to use her eyesN3
The water came in with a wavy lookO
Like a spider's webE4
A bluebird has a back like a feathered skyF4
Apostrophizing a snow capped mountain sheB
You shine like a lilyB
But with a different whitenessN3
She asks a humming birdR2
Why do you stand on the airD2
And no sun shiningA
She hears a chickadeeR2
Far off I hear him talkingA
The way smooth bright pebblesN3
Drop into waterY
Now let us follow her a step farther to whereD2
the imagination takes a firmer holdR2
The world turns softlyB
Not to spill its lakes and riversN3
The water is held in its armsN3
And the sky is held in the waterY
School lessons and a reflection in a pondR2
that is the stuff of which all poetry is made ItR2
is the fusion which shows the quality of the poetR2
Turn to the text and read Geography ReallyB
this is an extraordinary childR2
It is pleasant to watch her with the artist'sN3
eagerness intrigued by the sounds of words forP2
silvery lonesome lapping of the long waveG4
Again enchanted by a little bell of rhyme we haveQ2
this amusing catalogueH4
John flowersN3
Mary flowersN3
Polly flowersN3
Cauli flowersN3
That is the conscious Hilda the gay little girlV2
but it shows a quick ear nevertheless We canI4
almost hear the giggle with which that CauliV2
flowers came out Usually rhyme does notR2
appear to be a matter of moment to her SomeJ3
poets think in rhyme some do not HildaR2
evidently belongs to the second categoryB
Treasure and The Apple Jelly Fish Tree andR2
Short Story are the only poems in the bookO
which seem to follow a clearly rhymed patternJ4
If any misguided schoolmistress had everY
suggested that a poem should have rhyme andR2
metre this book would never have been toldR2
In Moon Doves however there is a distinctlyB
metrical effect without rhyme But the greatR2
majority of the poems are built upon cadenceN3
and the subtlety of this little girl's cadencesN3
are a delight to those who can hear themK4
Doubtless her musical inheritance has all to doR2
with this for in poem after poem the instinct forP2
rhythm is unerring So constantly is this the caseN3
that it is scarcely necessary to point out particularY
examples I may however name as two of herY
best for other qualities as well Gift andR2
Poems The latter contains two of her quickL4
strokes of observation and comparison the morningA
like the inside of a snow apple and she herselfR3
curled cushion shaped in the window seatR2
Dear me How simple these poems seem whenL3
you read them done But try to write somethingA
new about a dandelion Try it and then readR2
the poem of that name here It is charmingA
how did she think of it How indeedR2
Delightful conceits she has another is SunB2
Flowers but how comes a child of eight toR2
prick and point with the rapier of irony For itR2
is nothing less than irony in The Tower and theR2
Falcon Did she quite grasp its meaningA
herself We may doubt it In this poem theR2
subconscious is very much on the jobM4
To my thinking the most successful poems inN2
the book and now I mean successful from aR2
grown up standpoint are For You MotherY
Red Rooster Gift Poems DandelionB2
Butterfly Weather Hills andR2
Geography And it will be noticed that theseN3
are precisely the poems which must have sprungN4
from actual experience They are not the bookO
poems not even the fairy poems they are theR2
records of reactions from actual happenings IF4
have not a doubt that Hilda prefers her fairyB
stories They are the conscious play of herY
imagination it must be fun to make themK4
Ah but it is the unconscious with which we areZ3
most concerned those very poems which are probablyB
to her the least interesting are the ones whichO4
most certainly reveal the fulness of poetry fromJ3
which she draws She probably hardly thoughtR2
at all so natural was it to say that three pinksN3
smell like more of them in a blue vase but theR2
expression fills the air with so strong a scent thatR2
no superlative could increase itR2
Gift is a lovely poem it has feelingA
expression originality cadence If a child can writeR2
such a poem at eight years old what does it meanE3
That depends I think on how long the instructorsN3
of youth can be persuaded to keep hands offP4
A period of imitation is I fear inevitable but ifQ4
consciousness is not induced by direct criticism ifQ4
instruction in the art of writing is abjured theR2
imitative period will probably be got throughR2
without undue loss I think there is too muchP
native sense of beauty and proportion here to beB
entirely killed even by the drying and freezingA
process which goes by the name of educationB2
What this book chiefly shows is high promiseN3
but it also has its pages of real achievement andR2
that of so high an order it may well set us ponderingA

Hilda Conkling


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