“The Poet’s Tongue,” or The Library Book I’d Most Like To Steal

acarrioncrow-waltercrane     I’ve been having a fun discussion with Facebook friends about what library books we used to fantasize about stealing. I won’t go into the particular clepto-oriented details of my own fantasies, as I now work in a library and wouldn’t want anyone else to get ideas about how to steal books from it…. I figure it’s probably safe, though to talk a little about the book I myself most wanted to abscond with from my college library but absolutely positively did not.  No no no no no. 

     The book is The Poet’s Tongue, edited by W.H. Auden and John Garrett.  It’s not in print anymore, and probably will never be, due to content that is now considered dated and is not politically correct. The music of the poems in it make me absurdly happy, though.  The poem “Tarantella” that I posted a few days ago can be found in it, for example, as well as Vachel Lindsay’s “The Congo,” which is now not politically correct but has wonderful rhythm.  (See part of it read in this clip from The Dead Poet’s Society, starting at the 4:46 mark:) 
 

 
 
 
     Stephen Burt calls The Poet’s Tongue

the grandfather – or perhaps the generous uncle  … [of the] anti-academic anthology, the book of poems compiled and arranged with readers new to poetry or averse to the scholarly study of poems in mind….


He also says that it “may be the best of the lot.”  (See Burt’s “Wake all the dead!”  in the July 19, 2010 issue of the London Review of Books.)
 
     Today, to my joy, I found the book in the university library I currently work in. 
poets tongue
 
     I will not steal it! But I’ve decided to find all of the poems from it on-line that I can, and slowly copy them out or put links to them here every few days. I’m hoping that this project might help turn others onto this heart-thumpingly musical poetry as well. 
 
     The first one in the book is an old folk song/nursery rhyme, called “A Carrion Crow Sat on an Oak.” (The picture illustrating it, pasted at the top of this post, was found at Mama Lisa’s World.)
 ————–

A CARRION crow sat on an oak,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
Watching a tailor shape his cloak;
     Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

Wife, bring me my old bent bow,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
That I may shoot yon carrion crow;
     Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

The tailor he shot and missed his mark,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
And shot his own sow quite through the heart;
     Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

Wife, bring brandy in a spoon,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
For our old cow is in a swoon;
     Sing heigh ho, the carrion crow,
     Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do.

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