Friday, 9 March 2012

Poetry Friday

As my dear brother was good enough to point out my misspelling of Noel Streatfeild's name yesterday. I am going to offer him a little treat today in the form of a poem that I once used to perform as my party piece at the Christmas dinner table.
I discussed earlier this week my trouble with reading aloud books that require regional accents from me and the sniggering they can provoke from my husband. But long before there was the husband there was the brother to do the sniggering. Philistines. sniff.
Years of expensive 'Speech and Language' classes, spoken poetry/reading competitions and strange 'Lamda' perfomance exams (do these things still exist?) punctuated my childhood. I thought myself really rather good at it- a natural actress. And I was especially proud of my West Country burr employed to the full in my animated rendition of Rudyard Kipling's 'A Smugglers' Song'. Here's the first verse.

"If you wake at midnight and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark-
Brandy for the Parson,
'Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
and watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!"

It's very important you see to stretch and flatten out that 'ar' on 'darling' and leave off the g- daaahlin' and please try to say 'Gentlemen' as 'Gennilmin' to maximise the pleasure of your listening audience...

How he laughed. Meanie. That's why I'm not 'Ballet Shoes's' Pauline now see?

Smugglers seem to feature quite frequently as a romantic idea in Children's Literature. Odd because the concept of them is very difficult to explain to a curious 7 year old. 'So are they baddies or goodies? And who are the Inland Revenue? I don't really understand mum.' 'It's complicated Bill, it's complicated'.

I was delighted to find 'A Smuggler's Song' so well represented on YouTube in both spoken and sung form. Here's a couple for your pleasure.
First as performed by Murray Lachlan Young:
Although he seems to have completely failed on the accent front. I can't think he would have got his Lamda certificate (although I like the atmospheric hoof noises and whinnying- I should have added some half coconuts to my performance clearly)

And then an old sung recording with music by Kipling too allegedly. Jaunty! But where's the Cornish accent?

No one's doing it Properly! ;)

Poetry Friday is hosted here today by Myra at Gathering Books. Thank you Myra and Happy Birthday!


  1. I'm not sniggering, but I AM smiling! This has brought back memories for me too - I did LAMDA exams (though my strongest memory is of disliking the Dylan Thomas poem we once did as a group), and I used to sing this Kipling song a lot (not in LAMDA exams) - don't know where I learned it, but I loved it and had no idea it was from Kipling.

  2. I had no idea of its other life as a song...there seem to be a variety of different tunes available; most more soulful than this jolly version.
    I suppose Lamda exams do still exist but I'm not sure they were/are exactly the best way to inspire a love of spoken verse. Group Dylan Thomas is sending shivers down my spine...did you have to do Welsh accents?

    1. Happy memories - if faintly guilt-tinged

  3. The other point to make about this poem is that it's repsonsible for a rather good Flanders and Swann song - 'Watch the wall my darling while the bedstead men go by'.