Traveling Raconteur

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Relearning the first lesson – ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’

Curiosity is the seed that grows into the joy of discovering things, a joy that lends magic to an ordinary day, an ordinary moment. What begins as a simple question could have answers that are truly amusing. One such curious person I have the pleasure of knowing came by my work desk today. Upon hearing the mention of the word ‘star,’ Purna was reminded of the very first poem he memorized – ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ Soon Purna had a question – ‘Who wrote this rhyme?’ I am not sure about kids in other parts of the world but kids in post colonial India begin any formal education with this very common nursery rhyme and yet I never wondered, who wrote this poem?

Fascinated by his question we looked it up to find answers in a jiffy. It would have been more fun if the answer wasn’t so easy to get but that’s the beauty of Google, it allows us to find easier answers so we -technologically empowered humans can use our time to find answers to bigger, more complex questions.

Firstly, we never knew that the rhyme is not just four lines but a little more than that. This innocent and very simple nursery rhyme is actually philosophical and deep. Reading it today for the first time, much over two decades since learning its first stanza, I – a 27 year old, could understand its depth. In great simplicity, the poet likens a twinkling star to ‘hope’ and perseverance in the face of everday difficulty.

Reading this poem today I was drawn to the core of its truth, inspired to see light from stars that guides travelers on dark nights, the metaphorical meaning of which is an ocean of hope, a Coelhoesque take on the journey of life. Here’s the poem to allow you to ponder on it yourself, as an adult, relearn ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ which if you didn’t know, is titled ‘The Star.’

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
‘Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark.
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
How I wonder what you are.

A woman called Jane Taylor who belonged to an extensive literary family wrote this along with her sister Ann Taylor. Jane wrote this in 1806 when she was 23, celebrating the wisdom of her youth in simple verse. I am trying to imagine what she saw out of her window in England as she wrote this, a star?

Could it be the events of 1806 in England that inspired this poem? The British successfully colonized the Cape colony in South Africa when the Dutch surrendered to them, colonized Buenos Aires in Argentina while in India, the East India Company saw one of its first sepoy mutinies in Vellore. In terms of literature, it was what I call the golden period of English literature, a time when Keats, Shelley Byron, Coleridge, Southey and Charles Lamb lived! Could one or all of them have inspired Jane Taylor? Did women writers/poets of this time have the chance to interact with their male counterparts? Could it be possible that Jane met one of them? I am fascinated with the simplistic style in which Jane wrote while the Romantics competed on making their poetry more and more vivid and the likes of Shelley took inspiration from science. Imagine if Jane Taylor attempted at being one of the heroes of her time and wrote not nursery rhymes but poetry befitting the genius of her generation – we would never have had any ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star!’ Just as I always thought that if Keats’ poetic brilliance didn’t allow him to be a little playful, there wouldn’t be my favourite ‘A Naughty Boy.’

Wikipedia says that the house – in Shilling Grange in Shilling Street Lavenham Suffolk, where Jane wrote this poem, still stands and finding it is the journey I hope to make as part of those adventures that an online search can’t replace.

“Throughout her life, Taylor wrote many essays, plays, stories, poems, and letters which were never published” – I am imagining what beauty, simplicity and wisdom these lost works must treasure.

Jane Taylor died of breast canver at the age of 40, her mind still “teeming with unfulfilled projects”

To Jane Taylor, who gave me my first lesson in English and to the teacher who taught me this and who I do not remember at all, I am thinking of you today and sending you love. Purna, the unassuming, curious colleague – Thank you!


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This entry was posted on June 20, 2013 by in Everyday Stories.

Fighting An Additction

Not One MoreSeptember 12th, 2014
Addiction is a curse one allows upon one's self until it ceases to seek permission. I do not like the idea of a mind controlled by substance. If I can refrain for 30 days, I'd be very impressed with myself.

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