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!

Circling Round Insomnia

Hello Everyone! I see we have another hoar-frosty morning in this part of the province. A bit of wind on Saturday dusted most of last week’s collection off the trees and shrubs, but a fog rolled in last night and touched them all up again. Very unusual for November.

I’m glad for another Monday morning, a new week ahead. I’ve some specific goals to meet and posts I’d like to write. And it’s December already! 🙂

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is CIRCUMVENT

There are a lot of things one might try to get around, usually rules or taboos, but this morning I’m thinking of circumventing (getting around) insomnia. If such a use is permissible.

Sometimes I imagine counting things, or working on an assembly line. Usually I read. Not just a boring, soporific book, but something that draws relaxing images in my mind; my favourite choices are poetry and haiku. Ron Evans, a good on-line acquaintance once sent me four slim books by Peter Pauper Press, the Japanese Haiku Series, with poems by various haiku teachers and poets of past centuries — the “old masters.” I usually have one of these by my bedside, along with an old Friendship Book of Francis Gay.

Trouble is, as I’m reading I get inspired and soon have to get up, find pen and paper, and record what comes to me. Oh, well. Here are several haiku that came to me Saturday night:

her reflection on the pond
rippled by a water bug
hurrying somewhere

footprints in the snow
I gaze down the sidewalk
wondering who

the bird notes soar
and I try – but my tune
has no wings

Books to Fall Asleep On

I read once that if you’re having trouble falling asleep, start reading a rather boring book. Then, of course, someone else disputed this. Take an exciting book that will hold your attention and get your mind off the events/problems of the day. What do you think? Have you followed either of these suggestions and found success?

After a day of heavy caffeine intake, last night I wasn’t falling asleep like I wanted to, so I thought I’d start on a rather boring book, The Man Who Was Thursday, by G K Chesterton. I’d picked it up one time and hubby suggested I read it, so I read the first chapter Wednesday in between bouts of rearranging the living room book cases.

(Is anyone familiar with the Father Brown mystery series by G K Chesterton?)

Chapter One started in that old-fashioned “proper English” style and I assumed it would carry on in the same rather boring manner. But it got rather interesting at the end of Chapter One — and by the end of Chapter Two I was hooked. This daring young Scotland Yard detective infiltrates a cell of British anarchists and gets himself elected to a very important post. He’s about to sail off and take his place in the “Inner Circle” of seven, each one code-named after the days of the week, the organization’s head being “Sunday.”

I didn’t read further or I’d have been awake all night finding out what happened to him! There’s a hint in the beginning that he thought from time to time about the girl he met in Ch 1 and that he met her again at the end of his adventure, so of course I’d like to know how that panned out.

In contrast I downloaded a free e-book last week and read the opening a few days ago. It starts off with this preface: a lonely, destitute old man, broken by life. But it wasn’t always this way. He thinks back to his youth as a gentleman’s son, to the times when he had everything going for him.

Did I want to read the book and find out the bad choices he made? How things went wrong, how he ended up in this sad state? Nope.

This is a decision an author makes, knowing that it’ll kill some sales. Some readers may be eager to hear the story. For me, if I know the ending why should I read the book? What about you? Does this kind of opening make you curious to read the book, or do you find it rather off-putting?

Back to the topic. I’ve rarely found fiction I could fall asleep on. I need something like an account of the life cycle of a miller moth, or a recap of the War of the Roses.

So I gave up on sleeping last night, rather turned on the computer and did more DropBox sorting. Normally a repetitive task tends to make one sleepy — except that I kept finding stories & poems I wrote some years back and have forgotten the names of. By 3am and after a hot chocolate I was ready to sleep.

They say not being able to sleep is part of old age for some people. It’s definitely hit me. 🙂