Friday, November 26, 2010

Dark Pony: Learning by Heart

It's Poetry Friday, hosted this week by MsMac at Check It Out. Participating in Poetry Friday has improved my happiness.

The story and illustrations appear in both my 1946 and 1956 editions.
I'm not a dedicated collector, but I enjoy primers like these.
 Dark Pony is listed as a folktale in the TOC, but May Hill Arbuthnot and
William S. Gray arranged the words—and Keith Ward did the illustrations.
"Dark Pony" appears in Basic Readers published by Scott, Foresman and Company. The basic readers were fixtures in elementary school classrooms, and they have been both admired and reviled for the way they taught children to read—or failed to do so.


I could read before I ever got to school, so I'm not a data point in that argument. Still, the books were in the classroom and I read from them. I love Dark Pony. I love galloping language like this...


   "Every night his four little feet
came galloping, galloping, galloping.
   His color was dark, and he came
at dark.
   So that is why all the children
called him Dark Pony."


That is fun to read aloud, and it is very satisfying to know a long string of letters like "galloping" by sight.


I love that Dark Pony links to so many other poems about horses in my head. . .


    The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, 
    The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, 
    The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, 
    And the highwayman came riding— 
                      Riding—riding— 
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


-- The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. I'm pretty sure this poem gets used as an example of what not to do when writing poetry, but I love it. It was a popular choice back in the day when students were required to memorize poetry. (I think it was featured in at least one film about Anne Shirley.) The strong narrative and rhythm make it relatively easy to build the synapse networks required to "learn it by heart."


                      And then, that evening
Late in thesummer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.


--The Horses by Edwin Muir. I think that this would be a great poem to introduce to young readers who are imersed in post-apocalyptic/dystopian reading right now. I think they would understand Muir's vision perfectly, although they might wonder at his optimism. Unless they have known horses...even imaginary horses like Dark Pony. 


I could list many more poems that constellate for me here,  but three is always a good number, according to fairy tales.
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