Tuesday Poem: Red Fox

On the stone ridge east I go.
On the white road I, red fox, crouching go.
I, red fox, whistle, on the road of stars.

Traditional Wintu spirit song.

I found this traditional song in a new collection of nursery rhymes from around the world, 'Over the Hills and Far Away', edited by Elizabeth Hammill, founder of the National Centre for Children's Books. The book is a delight for both adults and children (though far too beautiful to hand over to sticky paws!) and the illustrations are fantastic, done by famous illustrators such as Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo), Michael Foreman, Jessica Ahlberg, as well as some new talents. This is a must-have for all book and poetry lovers.

Children's poems have a simplicity that is often deceptive - nursery rhymes are profound, mysterious and tap into something quite primeval inside each one of us. I can't read anything about foxes now without thinking of Ted Hughes' wonderful poem about creating poetry - the 'Thought Fox' - written ostensibly for children but which nails the creative process more thoroughly than anything else I've ever read. His choice of animal is absolutely crucial. Foxes lead secret, nocturnal lives and feature in mythology as clever tricksters, often with magic powers.  In Mesopotamia the fox was the messenger of the Goddess. But they could also be the bringers of chaos. Foxes appear in the Song of Solomon; "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom" - a quote that gave Lillian Hellman the title of her famous play 'The Little Foxes'.

The Tuesday Poets are an international group that tries to post a poem every Tuesday.  To find out what the others are up to, please click on this link.


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