We’re planning on…

We're planning on christening Kavya over the winter holidays; our parents are very religious, and we're cheerfully agnostic, so. I spent a little while looking at baby poems online, thinking we might use one for the invites my sister's making -- most of them are remarkably cheesy, so we'll probably pass. But I did rather like these three poems I found; the first one probably wouldn't work for a christening, and the second is maybe too specific to his particular granddaughter's christening. But anyway, they're all lovely.

Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents

The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where casually they come again.
But when there falls the stalking shade of fear,
You must be suddenly near,
You, the unstable, must become a tree
In whose unending heights of flowering green
Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells;
Where heart-distracting magic birds are seen
And all the things a fairy-story tells;
Though still you should possess
Roots that go deep in ordinary earth,
And strong consoling bark
To love and to caress.
Last, when at dark
Safe on the pillow lies an up-gazing head
And drinking holy eyes
Are fixed on you,
When, from behind them, questions come to birth
Insistently,
On all the things that you have ever said
Of suns and snakes and parallelograms and flies,
And whether these are true,
Then for a while you'll need to be no more
That sheltering shore
Or legendary tree in safety spread,
No, then you must put on
The robes of Solomon,
Or simply be
Sir Isaac Newton sitting on the bed.

-- Frances Cornford


Her christening

(for my granddaughter, Amelia)

Talk about curving when the Reverend
bent over to touch a palm to her forehead,
reached out in a human arc and splashed
water over her white pinafore dress,
spoke as he curved with his cupped
hand dripping brook-water that runs
church-side down through Cotton Hollow
to the river, said what flows from
gravity welcomes the newborn into
the community and carries the centuries
into a sun-washed Sunday morning and
if you believe or don't they're still
waters from which life comes, they're
still the future in which the past
pours beside mill-ruins through a
glacial-carved gap, washing our lives.

-- Hugh Ogden


On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-- Kahlil Gibran

2 thoughts on “We’re planning on…”

  1. Hee — while reading the opening paragraph of this entry, I thought “Huh, I wonder if she knows ‘On Children.'”

    (That’s an adaptation of the Gibran poem set to music and performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. My other favorite song of theirs is also a poem set to music (though not, I just learned, by Gibran): “Breaths.”)

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