I don’t know if it is obvious from the commentaries on the poems I run here but for me one of the things makes a poem for me is the context; it’s relationship to my life. Sometimes I read a poem that doesn’t move me right then but I know that what’s missing is not with the poem, it’s the context. I have the right poem but not at the right time. I first encountered this poem many years ago whilst doing John Bradshaw family of origin work. I was moved by it at the time but more so now that I am a parent myself, the changed context has emphasised every line of this poem. Our little Miss is coming up to three years old in April and I can tell you that every line of this poem is truth.
To A Child
The greatest poem ever known
Is one all poets have outgrown:
The poetry, innate, untold,
Of being only four years old.
Still young enough to be a part
Of Nature’s great impulsive heart,
Born comrade of bird, beast, and tree
And unselfconscious as the bee–
And yet with lovely reason skilled
Each day new paradise to build;
Elate explorer of each sense,
Without dismay, without pretense!
In your unstained transparent eyes
There is no conscience, no surprise:
Life’s queer conundrums you accept,
Your strange divinity still kept.
Being, that now absorbs you, all
Harmonious, unit, integral,
Will shred into perplexing bits,–
Oh, contradictions of the wits!
And Life, that sets all things in rhyme,
may make you poet, too, in time–
But there were days, O tender elf,
When you were Poetry itself!