For Kids
Off the Wall, October 5, 2017

I have to admit, memorization of songs, hymns or country’s tributes is something I’ve never been able to plant among the cells of this old man’s brain. I believe we’ve all been created differently, some with photographic memory skills, and others, such as myself, who am on the other side of the scale.

One such song that quickly comes to mind was, “the British National Anthem, written by Samuel Francis Smith, that we’ve acquired and sing as one country’s song. It goes like this: “My country tis of thee, Sweet land of Liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died! Land of the Pilgram’s pride! From every mountain side, Let freedom ring!”

I find it rather interesting that there are explanation marks, yet when we sing this tune, there is not excitement in our tone of voices. Instead what is heard around my ears is that of a soft, mellow, even depressed melody.

Did you know there are actually four stanzas to that song? The second goes like this: “My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, That name I love. I love thy rocks and rills, That woods and templed hills; My heart with rapture fills Like that above.”

If one finds it hard for me to memorize the first stanza, I hope he is beginning to understand that such stanzas as this one doesn’t make life any easier.

We are the home of the “noble free.” Noble people are highly distinguished individuals, and we got ‘em all right, in Latrobe, Ligonier, Derry, Norvelt, Whitney and all the surrounding towns, cities and villages encircling our neighborhoods. We don’t all consider distinguished individuals with the same qualifications. Anyone who I look up to and consider top-notched in his or her field of present or past professions is a disguised person. My examples include Chief James Bumar, past mayor Ang Caruso and dentist Dr. Scott Salancy.

I never thought about loving a rock. I’ve talked to many a wall before after concluding the person I was addressing wasn’t listening. I had to research the meaning of the ‘rill.’ Truthfully, I didn’t have the slightest idea what a rill was. The definition turns out to be ‘a small brook.’ I can handle that. I love small brooks – no not just for fishing, but to watch as the waters find their way down the countryside to the front and side of my being.

Next words that threw me was ‘templed hills.’ Here, ‘templed’ is an adjective, yet according to, all definitions point to it being a noun – “The place dedicated to the service or worship of a deity.” I can only presuppose that Samuel is being captured by the moment that is invigorated by the knowledge that what he senses with his eyes came about through the creation of a higher power and was just formed by ice cutting a path through the rocks and the dirt.

“My heart with rapture fills?” I’ve only heard the word ‘rapture’ used in relationship to a religious occurrence, never anything else, so again I had to turn to Its definition is “ecstatic joy or delight. I can handle that. My heart is full of joy. That’s easier to remember, but I realize that doesn’t rime with the preceding word.

The third stanza?

“Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees Sweet freedom’s song. Let mortal tongues awake Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.”

Since breezes can’t be seen, am I the only one who can’t see breezes change sizes? I’ve always known my ears are very sensitive and are blessed with the ability to hear sounds close and far away. Since I am acquainted with nature, I actually understand Smith’s thinking here, as one can hear a sound made as breezes make their way through the trees.

“Let mortal tongues awake…” Can’t one just see a tongue sitting up and stretching a bit, opening up its pores? Now that our tongues are awake, breathing is part of the picture. I like that!

What did one rock say to the other? You have a ‘hard’ act to follow! I don’t know. I never heard a rock speak. Sorry, but I don’t care to be around rocks that prolong their outbursts. I can just hear one stating, “Hey buddy, your shoelace is untied!”

Riming isn’t the answer to memorization. The key is easily understood words. Write songs on a kid’s level.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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