One Christmas when I was very young I was delighted to find a big, hardback book of poems in my Christmas stocking. The book was called The Golden Treasury Of Poetry, selected and with a commentary by Louis Untermeyer, and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund. My photos show the front cover and 2 of its double page spreads. This volume has always enjoyed a special, treasured place on my bookshelves. For it was this book above all which kindled in me a lifelong passion for books and literature, and for poetry in particular.
The poems were arranged in 12 themed sections which had titles such as Creatures Of Every Kind, Unforgettable Stories, Good Things In Small Packages and Around The Year. Untermeyer's selection of poems was brilliantly done - sure, there were some well known favourites by people like Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll (and why not), but there were also narrative poems about American history such as The Little Black-Eyed Rebel by Will Carleton and Grandmother's Story Of Bunker Hill Battle by Oliver Wendell Holmes which were really quite challenging and slightly obscure for a young non-American reader.
One of the poems I used to turn to again and again was this touching and sweet poem by Ogden Nash, who unbelievably just about manages to avoid the whimsical in his An Introduction To Dogs:
The dog is man's best friend.
He has a tail on one end.
Up in front he has teeth.
And four legs underneath.
Dogs like to bark.
They like it best after dark.
They not only frighten prowlers away
But also hold the sandman at bay.
A dog that is indoors
To be let out implores.
You let him out and what then?
He wants back in again.
Dogs display reluctance and wrath
If you try to give them a bath.
They bury bones in hideaways
And half the time they trot sideaways.
They cheer up people who are frowning,
And rescue people who are drowning,
They also track mud on beds,
And chew people's clothes to shreds.
Dogs in the country have fun.
They run and run and run.
But in the city this species
Is dragged around on leashes.
Dogs are upright as a steeple
And much more loyal than people.