Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tintinabulates (or: Never Bring a Poet to a Literature Class)

It all started the day Bink stumbled across Polar Knight (Great Big Bard of Big Bed Land) immersed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Bink took a look at this noble tome and became quite excited.

“Look,” he said, “you can see how writers express the shaping of the English language! It’s like drinking from the source of the sacred stream! It’s like being at the heart of the marshmellow factory itself!” After that airy flight of hyperbole, Bink had to lie down for a few moments, uncertain what had gotten into him.

“How about we teach a literature class together,” Bink suggested. “I think it’s time the Young Ones had their dose of greatness.”

“Yes, yes,” Polar Knight said absently. What Bink didn’t realize was that Polar Knight was not figuratively but LITERALLY immersed in this tome, the way only a Polar Poet can be, kicking her heels up and sending random bits of snow-white and ink-black page up toward the Northern Lights smiling down on her… this was one of the days that Polar Knight was absolutely sure that the Northern Lights were smiling just for her, right at her, and the infinite shapes of snowflakes filled her mind all at once, each a prism, each a door – “then glut your sorrow on the morning tundra,” she intoned both musically and ominously.

The OED was in pretty bad shape by the time class rolled around – it was gnawed here, burrowed into there, looking pretty ragged and tied back together with various bits of ribbon and lace, snarls of hair. Bink didn’t notice that Polar Knight, in one of that great Bard’s female guises (Mayhem Menopause) was in no condition to teach. She showed up to class with bits of the M section (she had fallen into an ecstatic dream at the phrase “mussel plum”) drifting from her fur when she shook herself for the sheer delightful weirdness of having a body.

The Little Ones, still a bit sleepy from their adventures in Water Ballet with Lambchoppie, had gathered for their class. They did love Bink’s classes, and that’s a fact. He made them laugh so much! No one could be as silly as Bink, they all thought privately, though they would never hurt the feelings of the other Animals by saying so. And Bink for his part felt that he was doing both the Young Ones and Art itself an enormous service, so things usually worked out well.

Bink had a long list of phrases with the word bell in them written up on the blackboard that he began to read in a churchy sort of voice:

"Oh bells, ring for the ringing!” he began and continued for some time. The Young Ones were getting restless and Polar Knight whispered: “With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes.” They gaped at her. No one ever spoke in class! “With fings on her ringers and tells on her boes,” she continued and they gaped at her, open-mouthed.

“Me rong bellen & vast the ropes drau,” Bink recited.

“Me Tarzan,” Polar Knight whispered mischievously into the ear of a Young One in front of him, and all at once the spell was broken, they began to giggle softly.

Bink droned on in spite of the whispers he heard behind him: “Alexander Bell…no petticoats at all…?”

Bink asked if they would share their thoughts with him rather than whispering.

“The Alexander Bell Curve is what made hoop skirts possible, freeing women by the thousands from their petticoats!” the ladybug cried out, very fast, in a high voice.

“Excellent,” said Bink, nodding sagely. “Now you are discovering the wonders of history. Let’s go back to Poe whose famous use of alliteration…”

All at once Polar Knight began to wriggle all over when Bink wasn’t looking and the Young Ones were silent, fatally fascinated by his wriggle, wriggle, wriggle. Even Lambchoppie couldn’t wriggle like this. Polar Knight explained that she was…. AN EEL. She taught them the dance and soon they were all wriggling and singing “The ululalulation of the eels, eels, eels, eels, the ululalulation of the eels.” They were getting quite good at it by the time Bink happened to wheel around and notice them.

“What are you doing?” Bink asked.

“I’ve just written a poem,” Polar Knight explained quickly. “It goes like this:

The belle dame of the ball took her clapper in hand
And the sedge withered palely across the land
And no birds sang”

To Bink’s shock the Young Ones started to sniffle and cry, then suddenly he was faced by a roomful of wailing Young Ones until Polar Knight drifted on the divine wave of her own sadness out of the room, followed by all the students in a high-pitched ecstasy of wailing and sorrow and desolation.

Bink was left alone

Piggles appeared in the doorway, shaking her head and carrying a jumprope. She began singing softly: “Elephant, patty-pan, sit-upon pie…”

Immediately Gretel took up the other end of the jumprope and Bink hopped out of her pocket to take a turn. He loved the one that went “elephant, patty-pan, sit-upon pie” and he sang as loudly as he could. Afterwards he had the distinct sense that the class had been a huge success and fell into a deep sleep while Piggles and Gretel took a walk together in the mysterious but shining silence that Kangaroos and Pigs can share with such contentment.


  1. I'll be contemplating The Alexander Bell Curve all day.

  2. GAAAAH! How dare they do that to the OED( not all the volumes? )I will have to come back here, anon :)

  3. I'll be contemplating it with you! Something the Animals really understand is the romp of inventing history...

    I'm assuming that your comment is also qualifying you for the "book giveaway contest" of The Days of Wine and Roses from RFBanjo!

  4. Hi everybody: Monster J, AKA Johnny Jack Poetry, AKA John Hayes here--just a reminder: if folks are commenting on this post (or Monday's on P-in-B) for the book give away, please mention that in your comment. Of course, we also strongly encourage comments on Platypuss' excellent post! Subby: the OED on my desk is intact--can't speak for others....

  5. Dear Subby,
    there is very little that the Animals do not dare. However, no physical violence is ever permanent in Big Bed Land. Having said that, and hopefully given you some consolation, I'm thinking that tomorrow I will have to post a photo of what happened to the other volume...just for you. Thanks for visiting!

  6. It's me again. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the story of the sisters and their bell!

    (Oh, and please do pick me for John's book drawing. I'm feeling exceptionally lucky.)

  7. That's it! I can resist you no further!

    (Just don't tell all my Army buddies I come here)

  8. Dear JeffScape,
    even Pirate Goat agrees that sometimes surrender is the best course of action- the rest of us assure you that your secret is safe with us! We will enjoy your presence!

  9. Love this blog and your, about the OED...(LOL)

  10. This was a delight. I loved how the word tintinnabulation reminded me of the first time I read "The Bells" (and what great strange language Poe uses) - and the clever twist to ululalulation, which is such an eely word. I also loved the part about the snow and Northern Lights ("and the infinite shapes of snowflakes filled her mind all at once, each a prism, each a door")

    And maybe next time Bink holds a class he can draw his lessons from a different book of poems? :)

  11. Dearest Eberle and Animal Friends,
    We are all too familiar with Mayhem Menopause in the Hyggehus!
    It can be no small coincidence that Polar Knight found himself amidst the "Ms", for doesn't "marshmallow" have not one, but two "ms" in it! Did Bink recognize this?

    The "Belle Dame" was our favourite part.

    Kat and the H-Gang

  12. Dear e,

    so glad you enjoy the humor of Big Bed Land - I have often thought that I might be the only fan of these quirky Animals, and it's heartening to know that there are others! Check back in for a follow-up on the OED...

    Dear HKatz,
    Polar Knight is touched that you liked that line about snowflakes! I find I often learn about my own creative process when Polar Knight writes about hers - what a coincidence! Thanks for visiting.

    Dear Poetikat,
    how delightful that you know Mayhem Menopause! I have a feeling that she may become a more frequent contributor to P-in-B...

    Thanks for that insight into marshmellows! No one here had noticed that! In fact, Bink is off right now to tell the Bears who are soon heading to the hills for the 2010 Wild Petunia Hunt, to be on the alert for the two Mysterious Ms of marshmellows when they are just budding and emitting the pale glow they have at this stage where they grow in the Mountains beyond the Targ Forest. Remember, though, not to follow the bewitching glow of the will-o'the-marshmellow very far from the campfire because it could lead you into the Marshmellow Matrix, from whence no Monster has ever returned...

    The Belle Dame salutes you!

  13. this post definitely rung my bell!!

    the alexander (graham?) bell - love it!!! ha ha