“The Children’s Hour” poem by Longfellow. Playing with children during long afternoon hours (June 2010)

Susan's Thursday morning note June 3, 2010 
"The Children's Hour" poem by Longfellow - playing with children during long afternoon hours. 

Good morning!!!  What a beautiful morning to write for you!  The crisp air makes the coffee that much better!  The cats are in to sleep for the day, the house already looks “lived in” and we already in “rush” mode.  How can the morning just become like a roller coaster….the slow start up with all in control….then a little faster….then a little faster…then suddenly careening!  I figure it shows there is life!  So, if we can know we’re staying on the tracks – careen away we will into another day!!!

Only a few blocks away from me each day is a woman I dearly love – now in her late 80’s.  When I would visit her with Camden younger in the late afternoon she would refer to the poem below….the few hours in the late afternoon that are sometimes hard to get through…between hours of our entering the day of responsibilities and entering the evening…the “dead” hours that can seem to run on for a seeming eternity.  Longfellow wrote this poem in 1859.  He learned to use this hard hour in his day to play with his children…knowing he was unable to clearly think of his own responsibilities, realizing he could not rest his mind in the stillness of the nothingness…learning that the best use was going to his children and playing with them.  This poem is beautiful.  Not easy to read, but if read slowly in it’s entirely, beautiful.  Now, when you enter the “long” part of late afternoon…you’ll be thinking of this poem with me!  I hope there is a line that brings you a momentary glimpse of a moment in your life….either as a child in your home on a late afternoon with a parent, or as a parent with your child or a child you loved.

The Children’s Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1859)

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. (I love that part!)
And there will I keep you forever,
    Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
    And moulder in dust away!

And to end with, here is a phrase that I love that I read this week.  Language has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone, and the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.
– Paul Johannes Tillich, 1886 – 1965

If we do not have children to play with during the “silent long hour” of the late afternoon…then I wish for you solitude not loneliness.  Finding friends in the books on your shelves and in the memories of your mind.  Have a great week.  Let us not forget the promise that if we drop to our knees or look up to the hills….our Creator is there…silently listening to our prayer and giving us a peace that passes all understanding…regardless of the story of our lives.  How can we make today matter?  The moments that pass so quickly into a day…a year…a life….will our writing tonight on the time that is lost today be worth writing on tonight’s epitaph?  Kindness.  Kindness.  Kindness.  Mother Teresa’s lesson.  What truly matters.  Keeping the eternal perspective.  Taking care of each other.  Noticing the tiniest flowers.  Have a great rest of the week.  Thank you so much for letting me write to you again today & for your business.  If you only knew what you mean to all of us here.  Susan

Latin for this week:
liberi - children
puer - a boy
puella - a girl, a lass, a maiden
infantes - young children not yet able to speak
pueri in campo lubebant - children were playing in the field