Today is Umbrella Day, because on February 10, 1899, John Warren filed a patent for an improved folding umbrella.
Of course, in searching for poems about umbrellas, I found a huge amount of dreadful poetry, but very few poems, good or bad, with the umbrella as its central theme. It seems to be more of a prose object, as I found far more words written in prose about umbrellas than in poetry:
I raised the hood of my cape and opened my umbrella. Headmistress had given it to me for my twenty-first birthday, knowing how fond I was of the purple foxglove that bloomed in the park. When open, the underside revealed in each of the panels a spray of painted stems, lush with lavender bells. “No matter how bad the weather, you will always be able to look up and see something that will cheer you,” she had said, knowing that my quiet moods often concealed an orphan’s melancholy.”
― Karen Essex, Dracula in Love
To see her small and larger than life. she is both fragile and determined,
like a paper umbrella in the rain. – Jessica de la Davies
Going around under an umbrella interferes with one’s looking up at the sky. – Jerzy Kosinski
For more literary brollies, and one umbrella in a poem, click:
Marion Rankine, author of Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature, is obsessed with umbrellas. Among many other references, she cites:
- Umbrellas featured as symbol of social divisions in Howard’s End,by E.M. Forster – “all men are equal – all men, that is to say, who possess umbrellas.”,
- Roald Dahl wrote a short story, The Umbrella Man.,
- In Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey, there’s a woman driven mad by grief and trauma, who brandishes her shabby umbrella at passersby – and sometimes hits one of them..
- Then there’s Hagrid’s umbrella in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Mary Poppins’ magical umbrella in the P.L. Travers series..
- Charles Dickens wrote an essay, “Please to Leave Your Umbrella,” and his Mrs. Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit wields hers as a weapon.
- Part of Will Self’s novel, Umbrella, occurs in an umbrella factory.
My personal favorite literary umbrella-enthusiast is Amelia Peabody, in the delightful Egyptology-based mystery series written by Elizabeth Peters. But there is also a wonderful rainbow-striped umbrella belonging to Emily Pollifax, the CIA’s ‘innocent tourist,’ in Mrs. Pollifax on Safari, by Dorothy Gilman.
Here is a poem with ‘Umbrella’ in the title, and as an actual object in the first line of the poem. Too bad the rest of the poem is about melons . . .
Beneath a Big Blue Umbrella
by Jack Prelutsky
Beneath a big blue umbrella
a melon seller sat,
selling yellow melons
succulent and fat.
A huge and hungry hippo
made the melon seller mad
when he swallowed all the melons
that the melon seller had.
“Beneath a Big Blue Umbrella” from Beneath a Big Blue Umbrella, © 1990 by Jack Prelutsky – Greenwillow Books