April 24, 2013

Washington, round two

How many people are lucky enough to experience a 'trip of a lifetime' twice?  That's exactly what happened to my son, who was chosen to represent his home state again his senior year in the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C.  And since his father accompanied him the first year, it was my turn the second time so we set out on another wonderful adventure.  When you have more than one child, it is a constant juggling act to find one-on-one time and I really loved having time with him alone, watching him turn in stellar performances at the competition and then sight-seeing in our nation's capitol.

I hinted yesterday that the year before he and his father had difficulties finding the right street to really see the Washington Monument, so we made sure we found it this time!

Look, ma, it's the Washington Monument!
Personally, I think it's kind of hard to NOT find the Monument, but that's just me.  You know guys, they don't like to ask for directions!

We had beautiful spring weather while we were there:

Outside the Capitol

Here we are at the Capitol luncheon:

One of the interesting things that my son was asked to do was to recite one of his poems for National Public Radio.  I sat in the hallway in the beautiful old building where it was housed at the time, and thought how amazing it was that my son, only 17, was reciting a beautiful classic that would later be broadcast out to thousands of listeners.  As a parent, and as a passionate lover of poetry, it was a supremely gratifying moment.  Weeks later, a classmate of his was driving to school with her father when lo and behold...there he was, on the radio and giving a beautiful recitation of Robert Browning's immortal and creepily dramatic monologue, The Last Duchess.

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive
I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together
 E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will 't please you sit and look at her? I said
'Frà Pandolf' by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, 'Her mantle laps
Over my lady's wrist too much,' or 'Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:' such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart -- how shall I say? -- too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 't was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace -- all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,  
Or blush, at least. She thanked men, -- good! but thanked
Somehow -- I know not how -- as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech -- (which I have not) -- to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, 'Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark' -- and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
-- E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will 't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

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