Monday, July 9, 2007

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 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 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!

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(Painting by John Singer Sargent)


Anonymous said...

A few years ago I went with my parents to a traveling exhibit of John Singer Sargent's paintings at Wash., DC's National Gallery of Art. This painting of the four girls was among them; it's a large one. Sargent knew the girls' family (I forget where that pamphlet went--argh!!). It's a beautiful painting.

Terry Nelson said...

Sargent is one of my favorite painters.

elena maria vidal said...

That is wonderful, Elisa!

Yes, Terry, he is definitely one of my favorite American painters.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It brings back wonderful memories; my father used to read this to me when I was a little girl. At one point, I had it memorized!

Anonymous said...

Wow, does this bring back a flood of memories! I had to memorize this poem and recite it in the 4th grade. When I got to the line,"Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti," I would get the giggles and let my voice swoop upward on the last word. On the way home I would walk down Brattle Street just outside of Harvard Square past the Longfellow house and try to imagine what life inside was like. Eventually our class was taken inside for a tour.
It was wonderful.
This post today is wonderful.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Juliana, and Teresa, I am delighted.

Anonymous said...

He certainly loved his girls. Who said father's only want boys.

Anonymous said...


I love this painting! It reminds me of when my three cousins and I were all little girls. There was even a room in our grandparents' old house which looks just like the painting!