The Children’s Hour

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1820) was a prolific poet who became famous during his lifetime, unlike many other poets.¬† One of his poems, “The Day Is Done,” I memorized twenty years back and still recite in my mind at night when I can’t fall asleep. I find poetry much more relaxing than counting sheep.

In his own autobiographical book, Clive Cussler relates an incident from Longfellow’s life. Delayed in New York by his editor, the poet rushed to to dock to catch the ship that would take him home. By the time he got to the pier, however, the boat was pulling away from the dock and a gap of several feet was between Longfellow and the deck of the ship. He almost could have jumped it, but didn’t.

That night the ship went down. (In his book Cussler explains what caused the disaster.) The next morning newspapers along the Eastern Seaboard carried the tragic story and when Longfellow’s family read it, they were grief-stricken. Henry himself was shocked and immediately sent his family a telegram to inform them he’d missed that fateful ride.

In my National Poetry Month verse for today, the poet shows in a unique way how he would always treasure his children.

The Children’s Hour

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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 mustache 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 dungeon
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!

Cleaning Up The Yard

from the earth they came
to earth the trees return
ashes in the wind

Yesterday morning there was no wind and the grass was sparkling with a heavy dew, a perfect morning for a little fire, so I worked for awhile at returning to earth all the dead branches the winter winds dropped around our lawn and all the trimmings we collected last summer and fall.

I enjoy sitting beside a small fire; it feels so cozy. And the idea always intrigues me, as I watch a fire devouring bunches of twigs and logs, how a whole tree can be reduced to such a small pile of ashes. Of course I must write a poem about this. ūüėČ

Last year it was so dry in our area the RM (rural municipality) put on a burning ban all summer. Even at that our menfolks on the volunteer fire department were called out a number of times. This spring it’s been so dry here that we have to be very careful about fires. In fact, if things continue this way, we’ll likely have another all-summer burning ban.¬† I’ve been raking dead grass and there’s always debris on the lawn in spring, plus we have a pile of dead branches from the broken-off spruce tree. I’m glad for every opportunity to burn this stuff before summer comes and there’s standing crop nearby.

This morning I woke up feeling like I was hit by a truck: arthritis having its say, I guess. Plus I have to cook both meals at the seniors’ home today, so no fire even if we have another perfect morning for one. Some pain pills, toast and a cup of coffee, and I’ll be off to work.

I hope you’re enjoying a lovely day—or evening—and heading into a great weekend.

Clean-Up Time

My contribution today to National Poetry Month, or NaPoWiMo.
Happy the family that can work together to make their home more attractive!

Clean-up Time

When it’s clean-up week in springtime
and the winter’s past and gone;
when the balmy air of evening
signals summer’s coming on;
it is then I love to wander
when my day’s work is complete
through our friendly little village
greeting those I chance to meet.

There are things that strike my fancy
as I move along the way.
The impressions gained in childhood
are still holding good today;
for I love to see the parents
with the children large and small
clearing rubbish that has gathered
’round their home since previous fall.

I love to watch the children
and to hear them run and shout,
gathering sticks and bits of paper
that the wind has blown about.
And the father, too, is busy;
I can here him sing and chant
as he’s spading up the garden
for the seed they’re going to plant.

But there’s one thing holds attraction,
I don’t need to tell you what:
it’s the smudge that’s gently burning
in the corner of the lot
as the children pile fresh armfuls
of the rubbish which they bring.
It makes their home more cheery
after clean-up time in spring.

Written by a fellow Saskatchewan poet, Roy Lobb, born around 1893
Taken from his book PLAIN FOLKS, the second edition of which was published 1961 by Modern Press, Saskatoon, SK.

Grand Duke & Duchess

From time to time we catch a glimpse of the great horned owl that lives nearby, but one evening at dusk we looked out our dining room window and saw two of them in the tallest tree in the woods beside us. From all the hooting we could hear, they appeared to be in a serious discussion. I prefer to call them by their French name, le grand duc; it suits them so well.

Grand Duke & Duchess owl
begin their evening discourse,
discussing matters of the realm.
Prowling cat pauses to eavesdrop,
glancing fearfully into the sky;
mother skunk gathers her kits
and hustles them into the den;
meadow mouse freezes,
shudders, then scurries away.
What tolls will the royals inflict
in their tour of the realm tonight?
Which of their subjects will pay?