Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Auntie's Favourite Poems

In 1996 the BBC published a collection of 100 poems under the title The Nation's Favourite Poems, the nation in this case being the catchment area of ...the nation's favourite book programme The Bookworm...and the winner was (don't hold your breath) Rudyard Kipling's ode to British stiff upper lipness, the infamous poem If, a poem termed jingoistic rubbish by one newspaper when the results were announced; a poem often drummed into the heads of recalcitrant schoolboys of a certain generation.
It is claimed that a copy of If sat on the Kaiser's desk (German or Austrian Kaiser is not stated) and that If was the favourite poem of Marie Stopes, founder of the first birth-control clinic in 1921 and author of such works as Contraception: Its Theory, History and Practice. The unfortunate Antonio Gramsci the Italian Communist Party founder and Marxist theorist imprisoned by the Fascists translated If into his native tongue. His voluminous Prison Notebooks were published posthumously in 1947.
Foreword writer, comedian Griff Rhys Jones, seems almost apologetic for the nation's choice. He conjures up what he calls the nation's favourite poem by proxy, a poem with origins lost in the mists of mystery. Navaho Indian priests are cited as possible authors along with Steven Cummins, a soldier killed on active service. Do not stand at my grave and weep is the first line and the title of the BBC's proxy poem.
Poet-in-Residence's as-new copy of the many times reprinted BBC publication The Nation's Favourite Poems with its 100 poems and Griff Rhys Jones' foreword was a recent €1.00 bargain from a street vendor's banana box. It pays to shop around!

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

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