For some reason I started thinking: the first poem I can remember was "Song of Hiawatha," recited by my sister's class at some kind of school night, in England when I was about 3. I remember being up "high" and looking down at the brightly lit massed students in light-colored clothing, who were to the right. "By the shores of Gitchi-Goomee, By the shining BIG SEA waters, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the MOON, Nokomis..." I reckon that's where my Longfellow-liking started. I find his poems rather calmly-measured and lulling, but also just groovy -- like ocean waves. "THIS is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlocks, etc., etc." I like the repetition, which is like "Song of Roland," when the lance-thrusts and sword-descents are described (as I remember it, anyway, although I haven't read it for 30 years).
The first piece of music I remember falling in love with was the "Emperor Walz" in Canada, when I was about 6. My sister and I had a big stack of records (probably from a rummage sale at $.10 the lot or something) and presumably a record player (I don't remember anything about it). In one memory we are in an attic-y well-lit space that was empty but for us and our accoutrements. That was our zone in that house. I remember dancing with the horrible enormous stiff ball-gowned dolls that we were given one Christmas. One was in a blue ball gown, the other in red (I don't remember which I had). We despised them, anyway. We spent hours listening to (classical) music and dancing (ballet or minuet). I STILL love the Emperor Walz. And I still love Longfellow. Hmmm...
The first THING I really took as my own (which I have even yet) was a rock of quartz. I can remember finding it, at about 5,on a ramble with my family (probably mushroom-picking) -- we were newly-arrived in Canada. We found the remains of a house -- just a lumpy bit in the ground with a bit of foundations left. It was bright, dry, not cold. I found this roughly brick-shaped (and sized-- well heavier but half the dimensions) rock, and I remember thinking how perhaps someone had shaped it to use as a brick. I carried it off, and it sits on a table in the hall right now. I used to feel vaguely guilty for carrying off a rock, but then I realised that the place in Ontario where it'd come from is now paved over. It's a beautiful rock, and sometimes I hold it and put it up to my cheek, or lie with it on my chest.
* That was about 1958.
posted by - 11:04 AM