Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: Ducks' Ditty

For Poetry Friday here is a sweet little poem from the Wind in the Willows.

`Ducks' Ditty.' by Kenneth Grahame

All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!

Ducks' tails, drakes' tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!

Slushy green undergrowth
Where the roach swim--
Here we keep our larder,
Cool and full and dim.

Everyone for what he likes!
WE like to be
Heads down, tails up,
Dabbling free!

High in the blue above
Swifts whirl and call--
WE are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!

I’ve been reading the Wind in the Willows online in search of the roots of my adverb habit. I had a hunch that it goes back to the audiotape of the Wind in the Willows I had as a child. I listened to it over and over and the voice of the narrator reading dialogue liberally sprinkled with adverbs is permanently implanted in my brain. The hunch was right ...

Observe. This is what comes right after the above poem –

`I don't know that I think so very much of that little song, Rat,' observed the Mole cautiously. He was no poet himself and didn't care who knew it; and he had a candid nature.

`Nor don't the ducks neither,' replied the Rat cheerfully.

See what I mean? Here’s more dialogue from Chapter One:

'Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.
'Nice? It's the only thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. 'Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing— absolute nothing— half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: 'messing— about— in— boats; messing— —'
'Look ahead, Rat!' cried the Mole suddenly.
It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.
'—about in boats— or with boats,' the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh.

Feel like messing about in boats yet ;-) ? Anyway, I am in adverb rehab under the strict supervision of my critique buddies. Remind me why I shouldn’t be using them? OK, OK, stepping slowly and carefully away from the last adverb I wanted to use. For the record, I LOVE that book, adverbs and all.

Haven’t read it? The full text is available here …

The Wind in the Willows

I think switching to 1st person POV for my current book has helped no end with the adverbs though. No idea why …

Round up is at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books

* picture of duck by Dvorscak from flickr creative commons


Yat-Yee said...

Adverb rehab: that's cute. It's true, isn't it, that all the new rules that cater to current tastes/needs have all been broken before, in books much beloved.

Nandini said...

It's true :-)

I love the gentle pace of life along the river in that book (except for Toad!) Have you read it?

Yat-Yee said...

No, I am ashamed to say I haven't. I've come across that BBC list and decided I need to read more of the classics.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm glad someone else out there has an adverb problem; I absolutely do. And now that you mention it, maybe I got mine from books like Wind in the Willows. For me, the dialogue and the prose make everything snap into life. I can picture Mole's shyness without seeing him duck his head or press his lips together; I don't care if someone's telling me or showing me -- I see it anyway.

Sniff. I'm cutting out all my adverbs even as I write this. And it hurts.

Annette Gulati said...

I love Wind in the Willows. Still have my copy from long ago. I think I did a project on it in 5th grade. Don't think it had anything to do with adverbs though. :) I must go back and re-read!

Nandini said...

Mary, I feel your pain! The adverbs in Wind ... work for me too. They feel so natural to the narrative voice, I find myself waiting for them before "seeing" the story in my head. I'm being a trooper and dropping them in my writing. And, yes, it hurts!

Annette, I love the book too! It does have many adverbs, check it out ...

jama said...

Love those dabbling ducks! Haven't read Wind in the Willows in a long time -- never really noticed all those adverbs before. Thanks for inspiring me to reread this classic :).

Kelly said...

Great reminder of Wind in the Willows, and adorable pic!

marthacalderaro said...

Your conversation has brought to mind the old Schoolhouse Rock song, "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here." Nandini, if you're not familiar with that Saturday-morning series for teaching grammar, here's a sample (beware, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day):

Nandini said...

Jama, Kelly, glad you liked it!

Martha, great song! You're right it's stuck!

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