We were lucky children. There were few books in our world. There was no local library, and only a few precious purchased books in the house. BUT, we had my mother and that made all the difference.
She read and recited poetry, told us short stories and sang songs to send us off to sleep every night. We heard “The Cremation of Sam Magee”, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”, “The Highwayman”, “The Children’s Hour”, and “The Land of Counterpain” amongst others.
The few annual weeks of visiting my maternal Grandparents were also filled with busy days leading to nightly stories as we lay in our beds, settling in for the night. The stories were mostly from the family section of farm newspapers.
We loved all those bedtime poems, stories, and songs. Since there were so many of us we were tucked in to our beds, where we listened to our Mother’s/Grandmother’s voice lead us into a world of beginnings, middles and ends. A gentle voice of an evening can still instantly bring back that memory of safety and enthralment.
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“The Children’s Hour
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupation,
That is know 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 in 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!”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“WHO’LL HELP A FAIRY
“Oh! what shall I do?” sobbed a tiny mole,
“A Fairy has stumbled into my hole;
It is full of water and crewling things,
And she can’t get out, for she’s hurt her wings.
“I did my best to catch hold of her hair,
But my arms are short, and she’s still in there.
Oh! help her, white rabbit, your arms are very long;
You say you’re good, and I know your strong.”
“Dont bother me,” the white rabbit said-
She shut up her eyes and her ears grew red-
“There’s lots of mud and its sure to stick
On my beautiful fur, so white and thick.”
“Oh dear! oh dear!” sobbed the poor little mole,
“Who’ll help the Fairy out of the hole?”
A little brown rabbit popped up from the gorse,
“I’m not very strong, but I’ll try, of course.”
His little tail bobbed as he waddled in,
The muddy water came up to his chin;
But he caught the Fairy tight by the hand,
And helped her get to Fairyland.
But she kissed him first on his muddy nose,
She kissed his face and his little wet toes;
And when the day dawned in the early light,
The common brown rabbit was silvery white.”
Charlotte Druit Cole
I love those poems, especially the fairy one…thank you!
Yes, charming poems!