In school (1950's and 60's), there was a requirement that every pupil memorize 250 lines of poetry each year . This started in Gr.4 and continued into Gr.8 . Once a month , students who had memorized a poem would stand in front of the class , repeat what they had committed to memory , and be told how many lines remained in their assignment .
Most chose poems of 20 to 30 lines , and could get it done in the school year . Then there was Barry Ross who was in my class . His technique was unique among fourth graders .
And his style of approach got him through the remaining years of elementary school . Barry always chose poems by a Canadian poet named William Henry Drummond ( 1854-1907). That meant that Barry only had to memorize two poems and he was done for the year .
To this day I can picture him standing in front of the class flawlessly reciting 'De Stove Pipe Hole' . It was a very long poem of about 100 lines and would normally be beyond the attention span of eight and nine year olds . But , Barry had chosen well .
Drummond was perfect for Barry's mischievous personality with his well-developed sense of humour . His delivery in the character of the poem was complete with the accent of a habitant canadien relating his experience in English . Barry's interpretation was animated with shaking fists , facial expressions and body postures that had the whole class shaking with mirth and rivetted to every one of those 100 lines.
Drummond was a popular poet from the time period I have written of in earlier posts . His life was spent among the peoples from Lac de Deux Montagnes near Montreal , to Cobalt north of Lac Temiscaming . This included habitants , voyageurs , lumberjacks and early prospectors/miners . All of his poems give a sense of the times and the life of ordinary people .
During the 1960's , Drummond's poems were frowned upon mostly because of the stereotype accent . French Canadians rejected the picture put forward of people who could not speak English well and often "mocked" for that . Drummond's content however was never belittling . In my opinion , his love for the people is evident . What is that saying about 'imitation being the best form of flattery' ?
I have not disgressed in the tales from the section house . 'De Stove Pipe Hole' in our house made for some amusing moments , which I will impart to you soon . Meanwhile , try reading the poem...Google it!