Thursday, July 2, 2015

To a Child - Sophie Jewett

The leaves talked in the twilight, dear;
   Hearken the tale they told:
How in some far-off place and year,
   Before the world grew old,

I was a dreaming forest tree,
   You were a wild, sweet bird
Who sheltered at the heart of me
   Because the north wind stirred;

How, when the chiding gale was still,
   When peace fell soft on fear,
You stayed one golden hour to fill
   My dream with singing, dear.

To-night the self-same songs are sung
   The first green forest heard;
My heart and the gray world grow young -
   To shelter you, my bird.

A lovely flight of imagination, published posthumously a year after Sophie Jewett's passing, this poem contains a wonderful tenderness expressed from an adult to a child, though not necessarily that adult's child.  Jewett never had children of her own, but she was a professor at Wellesley College, where she had lots of children (young adults) to take under her wing.  The real takeaway of the poem comes in the last two lines:  "My heart and the gray world grow young / To shelter you, my bird."  Harboring and protecting a child brings youth, strength, and vitality back to the narrator of the poem, who is represented as a "dreaming forest tree."  The tree loves nothing more than to protect the bird from all the winds and dangers of the world, and in return, gets a "golden hour" of singing.

For Jewett, who taught writing, that hour of golden singing must have been reading the work of her students, about whom I am sure she cared deeply.  Having taught, if only briefly, I can recall few prouder moments than reading poems composed by my students.  Even though I am not a parent, I feel like this must be a familiar feeling to parents: a feeling of strength and youth when sheltering a child.  Regardless, it's a lovely and touching poem.

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