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Posts Tagged ‘elizabeth bishop’

1918

For a Child of 1918

My grandfather said to me
as we sat on the wagon seat,
“Be sure to remember to always
speak to everyone you meet.”

We met a stranger on foot.
My grandfather’s whip tapped his hat.
“Good day, sir. Good day. A fine day.”
And I said it and bowed where I sat.

Then we overtook a boy we knew
with his big pet crow on his shoulder.
“Always offer everyone a ride;
don’t forget that when you get older,”

my grandfather said. So Willy
climbed up with us, but the crow
gave a “Caw!” and flew off. I was worried.
How would he know where to go?

But he flew a little way at a time
from fence post to fence post, ahead;
and when Willy whistled he answered.
“A fine bird,” my grandfather said,

“and he’s well brought up. See, he answers
nicely when he’s spoken to.
Man or beast, that’s good manners.
Be sure that you both always do.”

When automobiles went by,
the dust hid the people’s faces,
but we shouted “Good day! Good day!
Fine day!” at the top of our voices.

When we came to Hustler Hill,
he said that the mare was tired, 
so we all got down and walked,
as our good manners required. 

 

2132_bishop_large
Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) at the time of her death was respected as a “writer’s writer” on account of her technical mastery and exemplary patience and dedication to her craft. Since then her reputation has risen steadily until she has become one of the major figures of 20th century American poetry. 

She was born into a comfortable home in Worcester, Massachusetts, her father being a business executive with a successful family-owned construction firm. However, this security disappeared with the death of her father when Bishop was only 8 months old, and the subsequent mental illness of her mother who was permanently institutionalised in 1916. Though her mother lived in an asylum until 1934, Bishop never saw her again. She was brought up by a succession of relatives, firstly by her maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia, under whose care she was largely happy, then by her paternal grandparents back in Worcester and finally by her paternal aunt in whose home Bishop remained for the rest of her education. In 1929 she entered Vassar College where she began writing in earnest and where she met the older and already distinguished poet, Marianne Moore who became the first of several poetic friends and mentors.

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