Monday, March 23, 2009

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

Last week, a friend of mine who isn't even old enough to be my father (technically speaking, yes, but not for most in 1964, when he was barely in high school), but who often acts as if I'm young enough to be his granddaughter (not that I'm really complaining about anyone who acts as though I'm young at my age) made a reference to the Vietnam War in an email to me. He noted in parentheses that I'm too young to remember Vietnam. I emailed back that I most certainly remember that war.

I do. I remember the terrible footage on TV every night that sometimes gave me nightmares (visions of dismembered limbs tend to do that to young children). I remember family friends with teenage sons trying not to discuss concerns "in front of the children." I remember my fourth grade teacher telling us how lucky he'd been with his lottery number, a concept I didn't understand. What I did understand was that he seemed to get a little choked up when he told us that some of his friends hadn't been quite as lucky.

But that's not what my email back to my friend said. My email back to him told him that I did remember the war, that in 1969, my family was on a flight to London, and we wandered around the plane, as children will do (especially in those days, when children had much more freedom). Sitting in the back of the plane (in the smoking section, of course), we found a group of hippies. My oldest sister Forsyth, who was my walking encyclopedia in those days (thanks to her, I barely had to look anything up until she went away to college when I was fourteen), informed me that they were Vietnam War protesters. I had absolutely no idea what that meant (I'm not completely convinced she did, either), but I knew I thought these long-haired guys with their guitars and green backpacks were really cool.

They were hippies. We were children. They, of course, embraced us in our simple innocence (probably to the relief of our parents, who far from being afraid of such influences on their progeny, were happy to have others who seemed to want to keep four children, all under the age of ten, entertained before "bedtime" on that long flight). Those "Vietnam War protesters" taught me how to draw a peace sign. They sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" and drew magnificent pictures of dragons for us (I wish we'd saved those).

I'm not sure if that was my introduction to "Puff" or not (probably not), but I know that was when it became one of my favorite songs. I fell in love with the song; I fell in love with dragons (see? That's where it all started); and I fell in love (in that magical, once-upon-a-time way that only a five-year-old who's never had her romantic heart broken can) with a couple of long-haired hippies.

This is my first real memory of "Puff the Magic Dragon," but I have many other memories of it, associated with many different stages of my life. Not the least of these was when Bob and I were on our honeymoon and saw the land formations in Hanalai that, allegedly, depict Puff and were the inspiration for the song (yes, they do look like a dragon, but I've never found anything that backs up our tour guide's claim to this origin of the song). My first memory, however, is still my favorite.

Catch me at the right time (or, maybe it's the right time of the month), and this song can still bring a tear to my eye. It's all about growing up and the loss of innocence, so how appropriate that my first real memory of it is of a time when I, in all my innocence, knew exactly what it was about. It was about a wonderful, friendly dragon (were there any other sorts?) and a friend who (oh, so unfairly) left him. How could Jackie Paper, after all the wonderful adventures they'd shared, do that to his trusted pal Puff? (Yes, how could he?)

Puff the Magic Dragon
by Peter, Paul, and Mary

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name. Oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. Oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

4 comments:

Make Tea Not War said...

I always hated that song. I cried and cried every single time I heard it when I was young. I've never understood why so many things intended for children are so sad - don't get me started on Bambi. But obviously not all children disliked it as much as me so maybe it was just me who was out of sync

I do like my fellow Wellingtonians "Albi the Racist Dragon" though

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-jVAHAuiS4

Courtney said...

Oh, sigh. Sigh sigh sigh. I love this song, too. And I'm a little teary-eyed today as well. Thanks for this lovely post...

sarawithnoh said...

Well you caught me (at the right time of the month) and I'm at my desk with tears in my eyes!

Emily Barton said...

Ms. Make Tea, I think you needed some cute, long-haired hippies to introduce it to you. Normally, though, I couldn't agree with you more. Even worse than Puff is that book The Giving Tree, and yes, Bambie, and also Lassie Come Home (completely traumatized me). In fact, even Snoopy Come Home was too much for me when it came out (oh, the horrible, sad injustice of not letting dogs in anywhere!).

Court, you're welcome.

Sara, oops, sorry! Just don't let your co-workers see you.