Guest poem sent in by Matthew Brooks
(Poem #1396) The Childrens Hour
Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day's occupations That is known as the Children's Hour. I hear in the chamber above me The patter of little feet, The sound of a door that is opened, And voices soft and sweet. From my study I see in the lamplight, Descending the broad hall-stair, Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, And Edith with golden hair. A whisper, and then a silence: Yet I know by their merry eyes They are plotting and planning together To take me by surprise. A sudden rush from the stairway, A sudden raid from the hall! By three doors left unguarded They enter my castle wall! They climb up into my turret O'er the arms and back of my chair; If I try to escape, they surround me; They seem to be everywhere. They almost devour me with kisses, Their arms about me entwine, Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine! Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti, Because you have scaled the wall, Such an old moustache as I am Is not a match for you all? I have you fast in my fortress, And will not let you depart, But put you down into the dungeons In the round-tower of my heart. And there will I keep you forever, Yes, forever and a day, Till the walls shall crumble to ruin, And moulder in dust away!
Note: Published in The Atlantic Monthly; September 1860. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet, 1807-1882. A narrative poet in the grand tradition; his poems are full of images, atmosphere, suspense, and emotion. He is identified with American history and legend: his most well-known works include poems The Song of Hiawatha, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, The Courtship of Miles Standish. I always picture the illustrations of N.C. Wyeth when I read these poems. During his lifetime he was popular, widely read and celebrated, sometimes to the disdain of more literary poets and critics. This is one of the first poems I ever remember hearing. I think it was in a book of poetry that my mother would occasionally read from to my sisters and me. More than the words themselves, it's the rhythm and pace of it that sends me back in time the poetry equivalent of Proust's madeleine. I always loved the images of the little girls sneaking down the stairs, and the exotic idea of the "Mouse-Tower" on the Rhine. And I always thought that the last stanza was oddly adult and melancholy for a children's poem, but now, from an adult's perspective, it has a different meaning. Matthew Here's a link to some of Wyeth's illustrations: http://www.library.pitt.edu/libraries/is/enroom/illustrators/wyeth2.htm [Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of his "Courtship of Miles Standish" illustrations, but those should convey the general flavour - martin]