From my childhood:
With fingers weary and worn, with eye-lids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags, plying her needle and thread.
Stitch, stitch, stitch, in poverty, hunger and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch, she sang the song of the shirt.
Made a huge impression on me.
Oh, I should say it is part of "The Song of the Shirt" written by Thomas Hood. He died in the mid 19th century. I read the poem first in "Santa Claus in Summer," by Compton MacKenzie. My mother was given a copy in the Twenties, and then kept it always. I have it now. It's well-worn, and as familiar to me -- no, more familiar to me than my own face, since I read it first as a small child, but again at least twice. I always liked "Water Babies," too. Well-done, black-and-white illustrations were fascinating to me -- I wonder -- back and forth -- about the use of color, and if it is limiting in ways. I love color -- but I don't love any seductively colored illustrations near as much as I love the line drawings from, say, "Wind in the Willows," or the Pooh books. The school I began First Grade in was a one-room schoolhouse, with no electricity and the simplest plumbing (we must've had an outside pump or something). Miss Larson taught many grades -- each row of old desks-and-seats bolted to the floor was a grade. That was in the remoteness of 1950's Ontario. I might've been a child of a half-century before and seen no difference. We didn't have ink -- just the stained holes in the desks. In the winter the ploughs threw the snow up higher and higher until the roads were silvery tunnels. We'd slide down into the road, and a child was hit by a truck and killed, and there was an inquest. We walked 3 miles to school; my older brother and sister had to drag me along. We carried potatoes to bake on the school's pot-bellied stove, and Fizzies for our drink. My brother would beat on lead with a hammer to cause it to be hot -- we'd carry the lead in our hands to keep warm. Actually, although I remember that, it was likely an occasional or one-time happening. I remember much, much more than anyone wants to know. So I'll shut up. All sounds made-up, but it's not.
posted by - 5:49 PM