RED HAIR AND LOVE CONQUER ALL: THE ROMANCE OF NATHALIA CRANE

There is a place for fun in poetry, for verses we enjoy not because of intricate verbal craftsmanship or intellectual or spiritual profundity, but just because they bring a smile.  One of the surest of these poems that bring a smile was written a long time ago by a nine-year-old

Helen Island, Helen Reef, Palau. Original desc...

Brooklyn, New York girl named Nathalia Crane.  Her poem is a delightful mixture of childish naïveté and precocious cleverness.  It is called The Janitor’s Boy:

Oh, I’m in love with the janitor’s boy,
   And the janitor’s boy loves me;
He’s going to hunt for a desert isle
   In our geography.

A desert isle with spicy trees
   Somewhere near Sheepshead Bay;
A right nice place, just fit for two
   Where we can live alway.

Oh, I’m in love with the janitor’s boy,
   He’s busy as he can be;
and down in the cellar he’s making a raft
   Out of an old settee.

He’ll carry me off, I know that he will,
   For his hair is exceedingly red;
And the only thing that occurs to me
   Is to dutifully shiver in bed.

The day that we sail, I shall leave this brief note,
   For my parents I hate to annoy:
“I have flown away to an isle in the bay
   With the janitor’s red-haired boy.”

Yes, we notice the little things that are just a bit off, like the rhyming of “Bay” and “alway,” but the poem as a whole is so enthusiastically pleasing that they become just a part of its charm.

After all, who can resist the curious logic of lines like:

He’ll carry me off, I know that he will,
For his hair is exceedingly red;

And the peculiarly innocent psychology of

And the only thing that occurs to me
   Is to dutifully shiver in bed.

We are left with the youthful certainty of knowing that whatever obstacles life may put in one’s way, the faithfully, insistently red hair of the janitor’s boy shall overcome them.

It is also a cheerfully whimsical touch that the boy plans to search the geography [book] for a comfortably-habitable, spicy-treed desert isle that the couple are certain will be found somewhere near Sheepshead Bay, which lies between Brooklyn and Coney Island.

Perhaps one of the things that makes the poem so appealing is that it reminds us of a childhood world in which such things are firmly felt to be possible, before the realities of life intervene.

David

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