Early in the Morning: A Collection of New Poems

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Early in the Morning: A Collection of New Poems is a 1986 collection of poems for children by Charles Causley; with music by Anthony Castro and illustrations by Michael Foreman. It won the Signal Award [1] in the UK for children's poetry in 1987.

Style of Poems in Collection[edit]

"Charles Causley embraced narrative poems in traditional forms, drawing particularly on folk songs and ballads....Whether writing nursery rhymes or ballads, sea chanteys or religious sonnets, he was never quaint or sentimental. His intensely honest verse was deeply rooted in the history and geography of his corner of England, and never condescended to the reader" (Zipes et al.: 1253).

Causley's style is a mix of humour (e.g. "There Was an Old Woman") and seriousness (e.g. "I Am the Song"). He writes in seemingly simplistic language that has deep undertones. He also uses a purposeful mix that doesn't allow for the poems to link together, or be connected in relation to one another.

Sometimes the style that Causley uses is surprising to his readers due to the purposeful inconsistency within particular poems. An example of this is "Early in the Morning" when he combines different elements of life, progressing from the natural to the technological.

Content of Poems in Collection[edit]

The poetry in this collection spans several topics from religion and war to animals and nature. A common theme is the reversal of roles and norms. Causley takes traditional tropes and upsets expectations such as in "Early in the Morning" which begins peacefully (birds singing) but ends with unexpectedly violent imagery (explosion). Unlike his contemporaries Causley challenged the subject matter rather than the style of children's poetry. As a result he paired traditionally recognizable forms with surprising reversals of content. "There was an Old Woman" begins with an allusion to a common nursery rhyme yet after establishing expectations it fails to conform to them. Causley addresses this reversal of expectations in "The Owl Looked out of the Ivy Bush" where the owl speaks backwards, or "My Cat Plumduff" who chooses to sit in a tree even when onlookers accuse him of wrongly thinking he's a bird. In a period that avoided religion in poetry Causley included it matter-of-factly. "Rebekah" is written about the wife of Isaac, and is followed shortly by a poem about "John, John the Baptist". Notably, this collection concludes with "I Am the Song", about God. Some students suggest the thematic progression from war through chaos to God in this particular collection is significant.

Poems: With a Few Structural Notations[edit]

"Early in the Morning" - iambic trimeter (excepting line 7 which is anapestic tetrameter)
"I Went to Santa Barbara"
"John Clark"
"Spin Me a Web, Spider"
"Tommy Hyde" - music by Anthony Castro
"One for the Man"
"Mrs McPhee" - accentual meter, two beats per line
"There Was an Old Woman" - catalectic anapestic tetrameter
"Daniel Brent"
"Freddie Phipps"
"Charity Chadder"
"High on the Wall" - music by Anthony Castro
"Wilbur"- music by Anthony Castro - timed meter, two beats per line
"My Cat Plumduff"
"The Owl Looked out of the Ivy Bush"
"Ring Dove"
"Baby, Baby" - music by Anthony Castro
"At Linkinhorne"
"In My Garden"
"Stone in the Water" - music by Anthony Castro
"Round the Corner Comes Jack Fall" - music by Anthony Castro
"Said the Clown"
"Janny Jim Jan" - music by Anthony Castro
"Mistletoe" - music by Anthony Castro
"Balloono" - music by Anthony Castro
"Take Me to the Water Fair" - music by Anthony Castro
"Rebekah" - music by Anthony Castro
"Nicholas Naylor" - music by Anthony Castro
"John, John the Baptist" - music by Anthony Castro
"Tell, Tell the Bees" - music by Anthony Castro
"Johnny Come Over the Water" - music by Anthony Castro
"I Love My Darling Tractor" - music by Anthony Castro
"Let's Go Ride" - music by Anthony Castro
"Here's Reverend Rundle"
"The Money Came in, Came in" - music by Anthony Castro
"Good Morning, Mr. Croco-doco-dile" - music by Anthony Castro
"When I Was a Boy" - music by Anthony Castro
"I Am the Song" - iambic tetrameter, nonce poem


Zipes, J. et al., eds. (2005) The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature. New York & London: Norton, 2005. ISBN 0-393-97538-X