Mar 1, 2007
We're in Georgia, but we're talking about Springfield, Massachusetts, home town of Dr. Seuss--some of the things and people he saw there growing up figured in his books, thinly disguised. Mar. 2 is his birthday, so we wanted to pay tribute to him by performing one of his stories. Unfortunately, we can't afford the royalties; so we opted instead to do a Seuss-like story: Robert Browning's verse retelling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin". Like a Seuss book, the tale features colorful characters, animals, a fanciful plot, a valuable lesson, and most important of all, catchy and light-hearted rhymes.
The Pied Piper legend is much older than Browning, dating back to 13th Century Germany. The earliest known reference to it is a depiction on a church's stained glass window around 1300. It includes a likeness of the notorious musician and a group of children, and apparently refers to a real tragedy that either caused a number of children to lose their lives or leave the city. (It may have been a flood, an avalanche, or a plague. Or the piper may have been a real person who actually lured them away. Nobody knows.) The story has been popular for ages, and has been the subject of at least eleven films, beginning in 1903.
Robert Browning (1812-1889) was, like his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the great poets of the Victorian Era. His line "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be" was borrowed by John Lennon for his song "Grow Old with Me". Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote the famous line "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" to her husband. Browning's version of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" was written in 1842. Robert Browning is one of the few poets who ever lived who never supported himself by any other means but writing poetry. He also had the distinction of being the first person ever to have a recording of his voice played after his death.
Dr. Seuss was born to German immigrant parents (Seuss actually should be pronounced to rhyme with "voice".) in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. Before becoming a successful children's author, he drew political cartoons and worked in advertising--his slogan for a popular pesticide, "Quick Henry, the Flit!", became a popular catchphrase for many years. Among his other achievements, apparently, was coining the word "nerd". Although he was one of the most popular children's authors ever, he had no children of his own.
We've finally left Florida behind after spending about a month there, and are heading north. During the past week, Zephyr put in the last of his appearances at Universal Orlando, where one can find a tribute to Dr. Seuss.
Another great tribute is the Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden (catinthehat.org), beside the Springfield Library. We talk about visiting it a few years ago, and getting soaked in a Seussian downpour. And we also have a listen to a musical tribute, the song "Seuss on the Loose" by Mr. Billy. (misterbilly.com).
What are you doing to Celebrate Read Across America week? Visit nea.org for more ideas and leave your comments here.
Dennis (the Mayor), Kimberly (narrator) and Zephyr (the Piper) Goza