John Keats was just 21 when he wrote his sonnet On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. Although he died at the age of 26, he is now regarded as one of the major English poets. I hope you read his work one day.
He begins his poem:
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
He is speaking of the pleasures of reading translation of Homer by the Elizabethan playwright George Chapman.
Chapman was a journeyman dramatist. If you’re interested in the Elizabethans, you will read a lot of Shakespeare before you get down to anyone else and then probably only Marlowe. The rest are mainly of academic interest. I digress.
You have already begun travelling in the realms of gold as would be expected for someone who has been named after one of the Australians major living authors.
But you are two and as yet you lack Keats’ interest in the classics, being more interested in Walter the farting dog.
But, you are also getting an introduction to the great classics, in this case from Auntie Susie .
Story time has always been an important part of the day.
As well you are already an independent and enthusiastic reader.
You are beginning to develop a set of favourites. There is a large set of books about diggers, trucks (particularly garbage trucks) and various forms of machinery. A lot of the books that you enjoy have sound built in, aeroplanes taking off, trains passing by or motorbike starting up. You’re fascinated by this.
But Nana and I are more interested in the imaginative content of the books you read and there is a bias towards that in the books that we buy for you.
One of your current favourites is Inside Mary Elizabeth’s House. This is Mary Elizabeth.
The story involves Mary Elizabeth who has a problem with a group of boys who won’t believe that she has a monster at her house
The boys get their comeuppance from the monster.
It took a little while for you to come to terms with the page with the monster on it. But Mary is clearly on good terms with the monster so you’re okay with that now.
Bears in the Night is also a favourite.
Like Inside Mary Elizabeth’s House, Bears in the Night has its scary elements with an owl at the top of the hill.
When I’m reading the book to you, you will often shuttle backwards and forwards between me (on the sofa) and Nana (behind the bench preparing dinner) as the bears venture up Spook Hill. You often carry your large yellow torch to ward off any owls that you may come across. Later you will venture up the stairs, your own personal Spook Hill, looking for owls.
The books you enjoy most are the ones that you identify with, usually with the main character. A current favourite is I know a Rhino, the story of the little girl and her toys, one of which is a pig.
She shares her brown bread and honey with her bear at a picnic.
In your case, teddy is invited to the bench to share your brown bread and honey. Usually, you will help him eat it.
You’re still short of the rhino, the dragon and the panther from the book but Nana is working on that. Last week, you went upstairs with Nana and proceeded to throw all your soft toys, two rabbits, a monkey, a lion, a hippo, a giraffe, a pig, and a bear down the stairs. You piled them all onto the sofa.
“Would you let me to read I know a rhino?”, I asked.
“Yes,” you nodded. Well, at least I got that bit right.
The other great favourite is A Lion in the Meadow (published over 50 years ago)
But Keats’ poem is about more than just a love of literature. It is about the working of the imagination. In Keats’ case this is a result of his reading and the new world that reading Homer opened up to him.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
I have been fascinated to watch the development of the way there you are able to a to imagine things. It is most obvious with the stories that we read and the way you identify was the characters.
I have a story that I tell you in the bath, it’s called Winton Diggerman and is the story of you and your digger, in particular when you dig a swimming pool for the elephants at the zoo. When you sit in the bath, you imagine you are the digger and use your arm to do the digging often loading scoop loads of water into a cup that I’m holding.
I can’t get to the end of telling you Goldilocks and the three Bears without you running upstairs and jumping into your bed.
It’s fascinating that even at the age of two you are able to project beyond yourself to imagine that you are a driving a digger, being Goldilocks. It’s a huge step beyond the immediate concerns of a small child. It’s also the beginning of abstract thinking which is probably the most advanced evolutionary skill yet developed.
Eleanor Roosevelt said amongst other things that “The greatest gift you can give a child is an imagination”
But there is another side to the imagination beyond abstract thinking. It is a place where you go where there is no one else, just you.
May it always be one of your best and safest places.