Friday, November 25, 2016

Number-rhymes from Muriel Spark

     A dozen years ago I visited Edinburgh and there became acquainted with the poetry of Scottish writer Muriel Spark (1918-2006)  -- prior to that visit I had known Spark only as a novelist.  Today -- prompted by Thanksgiving celebration with grandchildren -- I have remembered an English rhyme that my own grandmother teased me with in childhood, "Going to St Ives" and, from there, I've recalled a pair of Spark's rhymes that follow a similar pattern.  I offer them below; despite strong rhyme, these are not entirely light fare--instead, they make us aware of the sad multiplication of bonds and wounds . . .

       Conundrum     by Muriel Spark

       As I was going to Handover Fists
       I met a man with seven wrists.
       The seven wrists had seven hands;
       The seven hands bore seven bonds;
       The seven bonds hid seven wounds:
       How many were going to Handover Fists?

       And as I was going to Kingdom Come
       I met a dog of twenty ton.
       The twenty ton had twenty parts;
       The twenty parts bore twenty hearts;
       The twenty hearts gave twenty barks:
       How many were going to Kingdom Come?

Spark's "Conundrum" is found in All the Poems of Muriel Spark (New Directions, 2004).

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