Saturday, 15 January 2011

A Saturday Celebration: A A Milne

A Saturday Celebration  
A.A. Milne

This week One Stop Poetry is proud to celebrate poet & author, A.A.Milne, whose birthday is this coming week.

Alan Alexander Milne was born in Kilburn, London on the 18th of January 1882. His father ran a small public school, Henley House. During his time, attending Henley House, one of his teachers was the renowned author H. G. Wells; Wells held a teaching post there for a short while. After finishing at Henley House, Milne went on to attend Westminster School & Trinity College, Cambridgeshire where he studied for a maths scholarship.

Whilst attending Trinity College, Milne was editor and writer for the student magazine, Granta. This led him to write more and before long he was writing for Punch Magazine. He became assistant editor, joining their staff in 1906.

In 1913, Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt. Before they had time to settle down and enjoy their new life together, he had to join the armed forces and fight, as an officer, in WWI. He was discharged in 1919. Milne’s only son, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920.

Milne’s literary career was diverse to say the least. As a playwright, he wrote over 30 plays. The most famous being the adaptation of Wind in the Willows, Toad of Toad Hall. As cinema was taking off, during this time, he also wrote 4 screenplays which were filmed in 1920. Milne wrote 7 novels, the best known  was a detective story, The Red House Mystery, in 1922.

Milne reached  literary brilliance in  the four year period between1924 and 1928.

In 1924, he published his first collection of poems, When We Were Very Young, which was illustrated by friend and Punch cartoonist , E.H.Shepard. 
This was followed, in 1925, by a collection of short stories, published under the title Gallery of Children. It was these stories &amp poems that paved the way for the legendary, Winnie - the - Pooh, published in 1926. In 1927, Milne  published a series of nursery rhyme Now We Are Six. in 1928, the follow up, The House At Pooh Corner was published. The aforementioned, illustrated by E.H.Shepard. 

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet. 
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.

The success of Winnie - the - Pooh was very much to Milne’s annoyance. Before he wrote it,  he loved the freedom of switching genre & style, and being able to write about whatever he pleased. After the publication of the Pooh books, this changed.  The audience for his more "grown up" work dwindled. 

Although he was still  wrote and published on a regular basis, he would never shake off the stigma of writing for children. His work, after this period, was never  received in quite the same manner.

In 1952, Milne retired after a stroke and the resulting brain surgery rendered him an invalid. He lived for another four years this way and on the  31st  of January 1956, aged 74,  he passed away.

On his death, the rights to Winnie - the - Pooh were sold to Walt Disney, where that legacy continues to this very day. Every year, another child is enchanted by the stories of the “hunny” loving bear that lives in "One Hundred Aker Wood".

Milne’s poetry has been celebrated , parodied, and even set to music, but the poem I would like to leave  you with  today is one of great literary importance, The Teddy Bear, published in 1924. This is the very first appearance of Winnie - the - Pooh featured in the poetry collection, When We Were Very Young.

Teddy Bear
by A. A. Milne

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: "If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?"
He thought: "It really isn't fair
To grudge one exercise and air."

For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
"Is quite" (he said) "as fat as me!"
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
"I mean" (he said) "as fat as I!

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: "King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed 'The Handsome!'" There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed "The Handsome." There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed "The Handsome." Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub)
Might yet be named "The Handsome Cub!"

"Might yet be named." Or did he mean
That years ago he "might have been"?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
"Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is 'Handsome Louis' with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget."

Next morning (nose to window-pane)
The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
"Is he alive or is he dead?"
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled "Oh!"
Our Teddy disappeared below.

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
"Well, well!" "Allow me!" "Not at all."
"Tut-tut! A very nasty fall."

Our Teddy answered not a word;
It's doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That 'handsome' King - could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
"Impossible," he thought. "But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!"

"Are you," he said,"by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?"
The other answered, "I am that,"
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, "Excuse me," with an air,
"But is it Mr Edward Bear?"
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, "Even so!"

They stood beneath the window there,
The King and Mr Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that....
Then said His Majesty, "Well, well,
I must get on," and rang the bell.
"Your bear, I think," he smiled. "Good-day!"
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about -
He's proud of being short and stout.

And before I go, our most famous of bears would like to leave a special message for all of you

"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you"

all images are under creative commons license


Brian Miller said...

oh d-d-d-dear....smiles. have seen quite a bit of winnie the pooh in my day...thanks for the bit of history pete...

River said...

Oh, Winnie the Pooh :) A long time favorite in our house. A.A.Milne is one of the inspirational writers of all time. What a story and imagination. Thank you Pete for the history and reminding me of one of my favorite writers I haven't thought about in a while.

Michele/banana said...

Pooh-niversal Truth.

The Hundred Acre Wood
is in two places both are good.
The book Pooh-niverse is English and twee
and I've loved it ever since I was three.
The Disney cartoon world of Pooh,
American accents and glowing of hue;
Each with its own separate Pooh-niverse
neither one better and neither one worse.

by banana_the_poet aka Michele Brenton

dustus said...

Milne's writing continues to entertain individuals of all ages through what was originally his storytelling. I didn't know much about his life and literary career until now. What an amazing creative mind! An excellent Saturday Celebration, Pete.

Glynn said...

My two boys grew up listening to me read the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The stories competed quitely nicely, thank you, against He-Man, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Superman. (My boys also liked the Narnia stories by C.S. Lewis.)

Hope said...

winnie the pooh, a staple in our house. even though my youngest is 16, we still watched pooh bear xmas, this year.

this is a great post! thank you

OldSchoolHaiku said...

3 daughters now 4 grandsons have been GOTTEN by the words of A.A. Milne.

Maureen said...

Pooh never gets old, literally and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

A.A. Milne always makes my short list of favorite authors. Thanks for this tribute!

Megan Willome said...

If you've only read the Disney versions of the Pooh stories and poems, then you have missed out! Like eating junk food when a gourmet meal is available. And Pooh's thoughts on poetry and "hums" and good for any writer of any age.

ACEBiggaveli said...

this was a beautiful poem

ACEBiggaveli said...

this was a beautiful poem and i love it

Miranda said...

I remember reciting this poem at my elementary school! You gotta love that silly old bear!

moondustwriter said...

It's too bad that Milne didn't realize his gift to children. He left such a legacy.

Thanks so for sharing it Pete

signed...bkm said...

Life just would not be the same without - Pooh....bkm

Claudia said...

oh i've missed this somehow yesterday - thanks pete - this was excellent and i LOVE the quote to a place now where i hope poetry and hums will find me...smiles