August 18, 2021

Singing on the Moon

         Today’s poem comes from Ted Hughes (UK, 1930-1998), one of the most famous, lauded, and controversial poets of the twentieth century.  In addition to all his critically-acclaimed and serious work about nature red in tooth and claw, however, he wrote quite a bit for children, including a whole series of poems inspired by the moon.

Singing on the moon seems precarious.

Hum the slightest air

And some moon-monster sails up and perches to stare.

These monsters are moonily various.

If you sing in your bath

Risks are one of these monster entities

Will come crash through the wall and with dusty eyes

Perch on the taps to stare, as if in wrath.

The tenor who practices on a volcano side

Sees eyes rising over the crater rim

To fix their incredulity on him—

There is no place on the moon where a singer can hide

And not raise some such being face to face.

But do not be alarmed — their seeming fury

Comes from their passion for music being so fiery.

So if you just sing from your heart, and stay in your place,

At your song’s end the monster will cry out madly

And fling down money, probably far more than you can spend,

And kiss your shoe with his horrific front-end,

Then shudder away with cries of rapture diminishing sadly.

        This poem illustrates the odd fact that even though it rhymes, its lack of rhythm obscures the rhymes so that it sounds like plain free verse.  I don’t like that!  However, I do very much like the idea of moon-monsters so passionate about music that you can’t sing a note without having them appear.  This would be a fun one to illustrate, with its moonily various monsters, all enraptured by song.  (The book in which the poem was originally published was illustrated by Leonard Baskin, but I can’t find an illustration of this particular poem.)
        Apparently in space someone can hear you sing.  What would you sing to the moon-monsters?

[Pictures: Two illustrations by uncredited artists from The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells, 1901 (Image from Library of Congress);

Lunar Animals, illustration for the New York Sun article on the Great Moon Hoax, by Benjamin Henry Day, 1835 (Image from Library of Congress).]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Song loving Moon monsters. THere's only one song fit for this - an old one, a favourite of my Granny's (In Danish, she hardly knew any English): "I see the Moon (Over the Mountain)".

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

I'm sure the moon-monsters would be thrilled, Charlotte! =) I was thinking of singing them "Fly me to the moon..."

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Not a bad choice either ;)