Wednesday, 17 September 2008

I Saw Esau

I took time off from work and writing yesterday to spend the day with my Dad who is over from Italy for a couple of weeks and travelling around visiting the geographically disparate members of our family.

We headed off to Saltaire to visit Salt's Mill, which has a fasciniating place in the history of textiles and philanthropy, and which is now mainly a huge bookshop, cum David Hockney gallery cum café.

Spent ages browsing through the books which was lovely, and helped Dad choose birthday pressies for my niece, hubby and me (hurrah - the much longed for Little Black Book of Stories by A S Byatt and a gorgeous writing diary for next year)

I also spotted a hardback copy of I Saw Esau: the schoolchild's pocket book edited by Iona and Peter Opie with ills. by Maurice Sendak (pictured above). I was tempted but feeling a bit skint gave it a miss. Well, hurrah again, because I found a copy of it on the market this morning for a pound.

It’s fab. Beautifully printed on thick creamy pages, and with the original 1947 text. Lots of playground songs, skipping and clapping rhymes, riddles and apparent nonsense all accompanied by Sendak’s fantastically disturbing pictures.

Parts of it reminded me of the meanness and horror that can be present in the school playground (gulp, where my daughter is right now) but also the innocence and fun, and the sense of belonging that comes with all knowing the same songs.

The editors aimed to cover the whole gamut of playground songs (as Iona Opie says in the intro, not the ones 'a grandmother might sing to the grandchild child on her knee'), and to capture the 'oomph and zoom' of the rhymes, so they haven't censored out the ones that reference murder, or fighting, or boiling naughty children (see below).

I particularly like:

I saw Esau kissing Kate
The fact is we all three saw;
For I saw him,
And he saw me,
And she saw I saw Esau


Don’t care was made to care,
Don’t care was hung
Don’t care was put in a pot
And boiled till he was done


Charlie, Charlie, in the tub,
Charlie, Charlie pulled out the plug.
Oh my goodness, oh my soul,
There goes Charlie down the hole.

And finally

Truth, Truth, nobody’s daughter,
Took of her clothes
And jumped in the water.

Which I fancy as a quote at the beginning of my novel (the one I haven’t finished writing yet)

Favourite illustration has to be this one

I one my mother
I two my mother
I three my mother
I four my mother
I five my mother
I six my mother
I seven my mother
I ate my mother

Which apparently isn't a hideous warning of the perils of breast feeding :o)

My daughter and her friends have a whole selection of songs with accompanying actions that they share in the playground. It always amazes me when we meet other kids that these songs are known all over the country. Maybe they will make it into a modern version of I Saw Esau. (I would reprint some of them here but I always forget the words (which both exasperates and, I think, secretly pleases my daughter).


GreenJello said...

Hello, direct from the Black Box! I enjoyed your post today. I have a joke for you:

Q: Why is six afraid of seven?

A: Because seven ate nine.


Jumbly Girl said...

Hi Greenjello, thanks for Blackboxing in. Love the joke - you've got my idea of humour sussed :o)

Pat Posner said...

I didn't know there was a bookstall on the HB market. Look out for me next week; I'm after a Robert Opie: The 1950s scrapbook.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Interesting post. I notice you are writing a novel - good luck with that.

Came via bb - will come back, you have a lovely blog.

Crystal Jigsaw x

Jumbly Girl said...

Hi Pat

There isn't a bookstall as such but most weeks there are people selling books - like a lot of things in HB it's a bit random.

Might catch you there next week - will you be wearing a pink carnation or carrying a copy of the Beano :oD

Jumbly Girl said...

Hi Crystal Jigsaw, glad you black boxed in and that you like what you found. I'm still addicted to BB-ing - can't wait to find out who I'll be visiting this evening - decisions decisions :o)

Debs said...

Your post took me back to my school days (far too long ago). I remember 'I Saw Esau'. Isn't it strange the memories these things evoke?

Tam said...

Oh. My. God.

Am using that illustration of a beastly child eating its mother to show my husband the perils of child-bearing.

No More Children, you hear me, Mr Tam??

Jumbly Girl said...

Debs - I know what you mean I've had vivid flashes of playing 'twosey ball' against the wall and of being rubbish at 'elastics' - all brought back by reading long forgotten rhymes.

Tam - Glad to have been of service :oD