In this episode Gyles and Aphra Brandreth bring you a special episode celebrating Father’s Day. The father and daughter duo explore the origins of Father’s Day, and what it means to them. Remembering his own father, and his love of poetry, Gyles discusses the joy and benefits of learning poetry by heart. Poems this episode exploring fatherhood include: Only a Dad by Edgar Albert Guest; Anecdote for Fathers by William Wordsworth; My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke and To Her Father with Some Verses by Anne Bradstreet.
Only a Dad
Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.
Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.
Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.
Anecdote for Fathers
I have a boy of five years old;
His face is fair and fresh to see;
His limbs are cast in beauty’s mold
And dearly he loves me.
One morn we strolled on our dry walk,
Or quiet home all full in view,
And held such intermitted talk
As we are wont to do.
My thoughts on former pleasures ran;
I thought of Kilve’s delightful shore,
Our pleasant home when spring began,
A long, long year before.
A day it was when I could bear
Some fond regrets to entertain;
With so much happiness to spare,
I could not feel a pain.
The green earth echoed to the feet
Of lambs that bounded through the glade,
From shade to sunshine, and as fleet
From sunshine back to shade.
Birds warbled round me – and each trace
Of inward sadness had its charm;
Kilve, thought I, was a favoured place,
And so is Liswyn farm.
My boy beside me tripped, so slim
And graceful in his rustic dress!
And, as we talked, I questioned him,
In very idleness.
‘Now tell me, had you rather be,’
I said, and took him by the arm,
‘On Kilve’s smooth shore, by the green sea,
Or here at Liswyn farm?’
In careless mood he looked at me,
While still I held him by the arm,
And said, ‘At Kilve I’d rather be
Than here at Liswyn farm.’
‘Now, little Edward, say why so:
My little Edward, tell me why.’ –
‘I cannot tell, I do not know.’ –
‘Why, this is strange,’ said I;
‘For, here are woods, hills smooth and warm:
There surely must one reason be
Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm
For Kilve by the green sea.’
At this, my boy hung down his head,
He blushed with shame, nor made reply;
And three times to the child I said,
‘Why, Edward, tell me why?’
His head he raised – there was in sight,
It caught his eye, he saw it plain –
Upon the house-top, glittering bright,
A broad and gilded vane.
Then did the boy his tongue unlock,
And eased his mind with this reply:
‘At Kilve there was no weather-cock;
And that’s the reason why.’
O dearest, dearest boy! my heart
For better lore would seldom yearn,
Could I but teach the hundredth part
Of what from thee I learn.
My Papa’s Waltz
From Collected Poems by Theodore Roethke, by permission Faber and Faber Limited and the Estate of Theodore Roethke, and Penguin Random House LLC
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
To Her Father with Some Verses
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.