Friday, February 3, 2012

Poetry Friday--"Manners"


Here is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop that is nostalgic and touching without being sappy:
Manners
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.
What a fabulous ending! And what a surprise.

Check out the Poetry Friday Round-Up being hosted today at The Iris Chronicles.

--Diane

Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine courtesy Library of Congress.

5 comments:

I'm Jet . . . said...

Love it, D! And the LH photo, too.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Just wonderful, the storyteller in the voice and the rhythm is so subtle one has to read aloud to hear it. It does have a surprise at the end, as you said.

Tara said...

This is one for my sixth graders - and that "surprise ending" was just so sweet!

laurasalas said...

I love the image of the boys shouting after the cars that are disappearing in clouds of dust!

Diane Mayr said...

Tara, I'm glad you think it's a good poem to use with 6th graders. I can imagine being led off in a dozen directions for research projects.