Mainly because Emily, a silver-tipped angora goat in the Dayville barn, was the only one to wear glasses, she was considered wise. She also prided herself in her ability to read.
A fact not overlooked by Lilly, a Guernsey, who happened to have the single distinction of markings on her side that looked like the silhouette of Mickey Mouse. “Why she eats more newspapers in a single day then a tail can switch a fly,” she once explained to Mabel her drab, but polite stall mate.
Mabel, who was chewing her cud at the time and didn’t like to talk with her mouth full, simply mooed in a lowering voice.
“I agree,” Lilly said, patiently watching Mabel swallow. “Besides, all those words, they must go somewhere and do some good; otherwise what’s the purpose of all that paper and ink?”
Because of Emily’s unique literary stature, Odell, a spring pig and barn’s elected mayor, asked Emily to teach Gerta, his youngest piglet, to read.
Blushing red, as much as any silver-tipped angora can blush; and with lips turned bluish-black from yesterday’s tabloid, Gerta answered, “Oh my yes.” She then pulled out her book of poems, opened it to her favorite of all times, and read the title, “The Bough Made Bow Upon the Bow-Tied Bow of the HMS Beagle.”
A little embarrassed in that he didn’t understand a word she said, Odell hurriedly trotted off, leaving Gerta in Emily’s capable hooves.
Emily handed the piglet the book. “I understand from your father, you already know a few words, so this poem should be very easy for you to read. I know it by heart and will help you wherever you stumble.”
Gerta, who was very polite, said, “Thank-you, Ma’am.” She then set the book on the floor, stood on its pages and began to read:
“Ropes wound tight on masts I read
As the sailor before me read (REED)…,”
Emily adjusted her glasses, cleared her throat and corrected her student. “That’s ‘before me read (RED)’, dear. Not ‘before me reed’.”
Gerta looked at her perplexed and Emily explained. “See the last word on the last line of the first stanza. It’s ‘head’; and since this is a poem, it must rhyme.”
“But it says ‘heed’, Ma’am, not ‘head’.”
Emily looked down. “Goodness, Gracie that old mare must have borrowed my book.” She flicked an oat flake covering part of the last word of the first stanza. “See, it says, ‘head’, not heed. Reed does not rhyme with head, so of course the word had to be red and not reed. When reading, one must look ahead. Now go on, from the beginning”
“Yes, Ma’am; and, from now on I will always look at each page to see if any mares have dribbled their meals over any words.” Saying this solemnly, she then continued with the poem:
“Ropes wound tight on masts I read
As sailors before me read (RED)
Wound (WOWND) the bows (BOHS), course indeed
And bows the slant of the head.”
“WOOND, dear, not WOWND” but you are doing very well, so please go on.”
The Bough Made Bow (BOH),
Set upon Beagle’s Bow (BOH),
Stained crimson from the sky for each to know
As morning’s light warning it did allow…”
Gerta stopped to correct herself. “Oops, that should be Beagle’s BAU, not BOH. Maybe I need glasses like you, Ma’am.”
“Possibly, as I don’t recall having such difficulty…but please finish the poem.”
“Neigh at night…” She stopped again. “It sounds like a horse has a speaking part in this poem, Ma’am.”
“No, it’s NIGH at night, not NAY at night, but go on” Her voice turning a bit perturbed.
“Neigh at night
The sky’s sewer…”Gerta’s eyes went wide. “Eueew,” she said.
“That’s SOWER, dear, as one who sews.”
"Neigh at night
The sky’s sewer
Nain’t used nay thread of crimson light
Did forebode their brouhahaer.”
Emily sighed. “So beautiful. You did very well reading this. What did you learn?”
“I’m not sure, Ma’am. But it seems it would have been much easier to say ‘Red sky in morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”
Emily nodded. “Possibly. But thoughts like this could be lost forever if they were not put in poems like this.”
“It’s easy to see how that could happen, Ma’am.”
“Very well, that’s enough for today. Tomorrow we’ll learn a new poem: ‘Dove Under a Red Umbrella.’”
Is that DUV or DOEV, Ma’am.”
“DUV, I’m sure. Until tomorrow then.”
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