back to top

FRED FIRST: Jack Is A Dull Boy, Who’s Hands Have Never Been Busier

My thought life is being boxed and packing-taped in cardboard, the more so as we approach our late August move date. Not much is to be found now in the writing buffer worthy of your time.

This condition will persist across the geography and time intervening between Virginia today and Missouri this fall. My curiosity and will-to-explore and write will be back, I predict and hope. I can’t say for certain.

In this neither-here-nor-there state, I still have flashes of curiosity—like the one last night where something triggered ancient memories of “auditorium class” in grade school.

We had a special seventh period one or two days a week. We were to learn very basic performance skills (rhythm band—I played sticks) and public speaking. The latter often consisted of the dismal recitation of poetry. “I’ve never seen a purple cow”; “Oh captain, my captain”; “I think that I shall never see…”

Do you recall other standards of the day (mid-to-late 50s)? Help me here.

From nowhere last night, munching while nursing a cold beverage, to my surprise, I recited: “A boy stood on a burning deck, eating peanuts by the peck.”

What was that about, I wonder? (Ah! A spark of curiosity persists!)

This morning before first light or first box, I discovered the phrase is a corruption of a serious true story titled Casabianca, from the 1820s.

And more: I learn that I was not a lone victim of poetry pertatory. This from Wikipedia on the sing-songy rhyming story of disaster and discipline about the ill-fated boy on the flaming deck:

This poem was a staple of elementary school readers in the United Kingdom and the United States over a period of about a century spanning roughly the 1850s through the 1950s. It is today remembered mostly as a tag line and as a topic of parodies.

Twig from the boy with the peanuts to related discussions like this one on the benefits (seldom called upon) of memorizing poetry.

The Lost Art of Memorizing Poetry

What is the last thing you made an attempt to memorize? Can you even remember?

Memory is such a gift. We miss it when we lose it. We do so little to nurture it. The pity.


If you would like to start fresh after recovering from the poetoxicity of AUDITORIUM CLASS, here’s a gateway into that bright land of rhyme and free verse.

Which one have you decided now to MEMORIZE? Please step up to the podium and commence. Not too fast. Maintain eye contact. You know the drill.

Poems for Children by Famous Poets

– Fred First is an author, naturalist, photographer watching Nature under siege since the first Earth Day. Cautiously hopeful. Writing to think it through. Thanks for joining me. Subscribe to My Substack HERE

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles