The monocled Moore, who has presented more than 700 episodes of The Sky at Night and written dozens of books on astronomy, publishes Within the Glade: A Collection of Poems Written to Amuse Children (of All Ages) this week. The 23 poems are in the style of Edward Lear, according to their publisher Sandra Saer, and give a range of birds and animals human characteristics.
Moore said that he wrote the first poem long ago, while in his garden in Sussex with two young children. After watching a frog leaping about, the six-year-old girl and five-year-old boy then asked the astronomer to write a poem about it. “I had never written anything of that kind before, but I had a go and, to my surprise, they loved the Froggy poem,” recalled Moore. He went on to write 22 more poems, leaving the collection in a drawer until he recently rediscovered it.
He showed the poems to his old friend Saer, with whom he had worked at the BBC and who now runs the independent publishing company SMH Books. “I thought they were so interesting and so funny. I rang him and I said Patrick, you have to publish these, they can’t just be lying around,” said Saer. “It’s astonishing how someone can put themselves into poems like this – and it’s more astonishing yet that he then put them in a drawer and forgot about them … He’s confined to a wheelchair but his mind is still as wonderful as ever. He’s still got the sense of humour, and all his best attributes are embedded in these poems.”
The poems’ topics range from the Weasel, “gifted with paintbrush and easel”, to the Eel. “I am a very lively Eel. / I love to dance the Highland Reel. / But living on the river’s floor, / my ballroom steps are rather poor,” writes Moore. “A waltz, a foxtrot or a jig – / it really matters not a jot. / My partner’s soon tied in a knot. / And when the music stops, we find / it takes a while to get untwined …”
Saer said that since the poems “are in the Edward Lear nonsense tradition, they are not just for children”. Moore will be making a rare public appearance to launch the book, illustrated by Euan Dunn, at the Bignor Church Weed and Wildflower Festival [http://bigweed.bignorchurch.org/?reloaded=true] on 3 July.