The Universe

I heard a little child beneath the stars
Talk as he ran along
To some sweet riddle in his mind that seemed
A-tiptoe into song.

In his dark eyes lay a wild universe,–
Wild forests, peaks, and crests;
Angels and fairies, giants, wolves and he
Were that world’s only guests.

Elsewhere was home and mother, his warm bed:–
Now, only God alone
Could, armed with all His power and wisdom, make
Earths richer than his own.

O Man! — thy dreams, thy passions, hopes, desires!–
He in his pity keep
A homely bed where love may lull a child’s
Fond Universe asleep!

— from Collected Poems, 1901-1918 (1920) by Walter De La Mare

Poetry has been going over well in our little homeschool this year. We just finished a unit on Walter De La Mare. The above poem shines in stark contrast to some books I recently picked up from the library. I chose books about the rain forest because we studied Brazil in my homeschool co-op class today. Now these were fiction, but at least half of them had the theme of the disappearing rain forest, using ugly imagery for men, construction machinery, and (strangely) soybean fields. It puzzled me that so many authors would focus on this very negative topic for a child’s picture book. Do kids actually like this? All us adult authors are really only guessing or pretending to remember what it was like to think like a kid. But if I had to make a choice, I would say Walter De La Mare has touched a closer link to the child mind than the rain forest book authors. “In his dark eyes lay a wild universe…” Wild, not disappearing. Magical, not ugly. Only God can make richer earths. That must be about right.

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4 thoughts on “The Universe”

  1. If I had to guess, I would imagine the people talking about the rain forests are hoping to instill a greater responsibility for the world in these young children, something so many people in our society lack. I doubt they are trying to “think like a child” but rather are trying to create adults who care. I’ll take the non-fiction books on the rain forest any day, but I am much more analytical and precise than poetry allows for…

    1. You are probably right about the rain forest book authors. I would like to show them Mr. De La Mare’s poem and suggest that children might respond better to the beauties of the forest and not the ugliness. Those non-fiction books will teach them the facts they need to know. The story books should show the wonder of the world.
      And Rose… poetry is all about precision.

  2. I think you touched on an important point here. If we want our children to value things- love, family, kindness, the earth, God, His creation, His people we must speak positively, not negatively about these things.

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