Saturday, January 4, 2014

I don’t remember, I don’t remember, the house where I was born

...because our family moved around a bit. In fact, by the time I was seven years old I had lived in two different houses in Rhode Island, one in New York, and two in Texas. So I cannot identify on that level with either the poem below by Thomas Hood (British poet, 1799 - 1845) or the one after that by Franklin P. Adams (American writer, (1881 - 1960).

I Remember, I Remember
By Thomas Hood (1799 - 1845)

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups--
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,--
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from Heav’n
Than when I was a boy.

I Remember, I Remember
by Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960)

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born;
The rent was thirty-two a month,
Which made my father mourn.
He said he could remember when
His father paid the rent;
And when a man’s expenses did
Not take his every cent.

I remember, I remember
My mother telling my cousin
That eggs had gone to twenty-six
Or seven cents a dozen;
And how she told my father that
She didn’t like to speak
Of things like that, but Bridget now
Demanded four a week.

I remember, I remember--
And with a mirthless laugh--
My weekly board at college took
A jump to three and a half.
I bought an eighteen-dollar suit,
And father told me, “Sonny,
I’ll pay the bill this time, but, Oh,
I’m not made out of money!”

I remember, I remember,
When I was young and brave
And I declared, “Well, Birdie, we
Shall now begin to save.”
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from wealth
Than when I was a boy.

Does Hood really say in the first stanza that he wishes he had died as a child? Does he explain why?

Is Adams’s poem a bit more serious than it may appear to be at first reading? In what ways?

What memories or comments do these poems evoke from you? I would love to hear your reactions.


  1. I suspect that Hood isn't saying that he wished he died as a child, but is saying that he is tired now and ready to let go.

    Adam's on the other hand I do take on a humorous level, while acknowledging the truth that prices do keep climbing (but so, usually, does income).

    I was born in hospital. The same hospital (and the same maternity nurse) as my partner - who I didn't meet until I was 20 (and in another town and State). My father died in the hospital I was born in - half a world away from his own birthplace.
    And our local government imploded the hospital (killing a bystander) some years ago. I still think it was a mistake. Sorry, loooong comment.

  2. I find Hood's version utterly charming! And my guess would be that his comment in the first stanza simply expresses how painful it is for him that his blissful childhood had to end!

    You know how poets are ~ never afraid to be slightly dramatic to make their point! :)

  3. First of all may I say I appreciated both poems and thank you for showcasing them. Hood creates a rosy view of childhood which largely corresponds with my own memories. I lived for the first sixteen years of my life in the house where I was born and when we moved it was a hundred yards away. It was a happy, troublefree life - a kind of Eden and though I have always been a non-believer, that life was more heavenly than the life I lead now.

    Adams's poem is a mischievous pastiche that chooses to sideline the joys and wonder of childhood. In fact I rather think that he is not really recalling his actual childhood - but a dark, alternative childhood that he has imagined to make his point and to entertain.

  4. Whilst I agree with TEC, I also think he may be mourning the fact that as an innocent child, he was purer, without sin and therefore felt himself to be closer to heaven and God back then, rather than as an adult.
    Adams's poem is more up my street than the first offering, though I do like them both. “And with a mirthless laugh-- “ - there's a dark edge to the whole thing I find, and in a way the slight bitterness beneath the humourous take, echoes the sadness of Hood's poem.
    I remember, I remember....less and less, I have an issue with my cognitive capabilities at present, which may or may not be slowly getting worse. Up until 8 or 9 years ago I had a marvellous one! It is really the last two years that have shown a speedy decline mind. *laughs at writing 'mind' there. I'm keeping it in perspective, which is more than my eyes are because they're failing too hahaha. Hmm, I laugh inappropriately at my own issues sometimes it may seem, but humour is a saviour to me, it really is. I DO remember sitting my pram as a baby, it was a silver cross pram in navy blue, a huge affair, like a small tank. I sat playing with the reins I wore, which were white and had a picture of a small dog with a red ball upon it, my neck was itching thanks to the woolly yellow hand knitted tiny cardigan I was wore, and with my other hand I was feeling the texture of the trim around the edge of the pram's hood, (to bring another 'hood' into the mix), which was blue and white, with a hard bobbly feel to it. I can feel it right now the memory is so strong.
    What an excellent post! Poetry, reminiscence, and curious connections. Great stuff *smiles.