Saturday, 17 September 2011

Charles Causley: My Mother Saw A Dancing Bear

Charles Causley was a poet of international stature, born and bred in Launceston, Cornwall where he lived for most of his life. Highly-regarded by John Betjeman, Ted Hughes and Roger McGough, Causley’s early work was noted for its narrative style and included many references to Cornwall and its legends.

During the 1970s Causley began to publish poetry for children, simple rhymes to delight readers by their very sounds, often illustrated by prominent artists. He also wrote plays, short stories and opera librettos. In 1967 he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry; a CBE followed during 1986. Causley died in 2003.

'My Mother Saw A Dancing Bear' is my favourite Charles Causley poem.

My mother saw a dancing bear
By the schoolyard, a day in June.
The keeper stood with chain and bar
And whistle-pipe, and played a tune.

And Bruin lifted up its head
And lifted up its dusty feet,
And all the children laughed to see
It caper in the summer heat.

They watched as for the Queen it died,
They watched it march, they watched it halt.
They heard the keeper as he cried,
"Now, Roly-Poly!" "Somersault!"

And then my mother said, there came
The keeper with a begging cup,
The bear with burning coat of fur
Shaming the laughter to a stop.

They paid a penny for the dance
But what they saw was not the show;
Only in Bruin's aching eyes
Far-distant forests, and the snow.

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