Sometimes, when something needs to be said, poetry can say it better than any other way.
Take this beautiful poem about childhood by Les Murray, from his collection Subhuman Redneck Poems (Carcanet)
Below Bronte House
The children pouring down,
supervised, into the ravine
and talking animatedly all over
each other like faces in a payout
of small change, now come in
under a vast shadowy marquee
of native fig and tree of heaven.
In their indigo and white
they flow on down, glimpsed
between the patisserie trunks
of green coral trees, and as
they go on towards the ocean
they are still tangling and grabbing
at an elusive bright string
that many want to pick off others
and off themselves. It is
of course childhood, which they
scorn as a disabling naivete
even under the enchanted rotation
of gun-sleeved sky-propellor trees.
It's the lines about the "bright string" they want to 'pick off others and themselves' that for me are most moving. Lines I think only an adult can really understand.
Today was our son's final full day at primary school. He is raring to go, he is restless, but he doesn't really comprehend what he is leaving. Why should he, at eleven years old? All he knows is he is ready to walk (run) through the school gates tomorrow, and probably never look back. This is how it should be, I think, for a secure child. Perhaps it is the best way to live ?
It is parents, I think, rather than children, who attach emotional import to ends and beginnings. The edges of things are always interesting. Leaving primary school is the edge of something. Not adolescence, exactly, but an innocence.
There was a ceremony at the school and a program was made with pictures of each child holding a sign saying what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brain surgeon, cricket player, funeral director, song writer, midwife, artist, F1 driver. They are still young enough to dream.
They also sang Pharell William's 'Happy' with gusto, all 90 of them. They were given dictionaries and a bookmark. Everyone clapped. All this was, unexpectedly moving.
I found myself thinking of the last lines of Gerard Manley Hopkin's poem Spring and Fall, dedicated to a 'young child' - I think he is right. Perhaps when we wave our children away - to school, college, down the aisle, we are also truly mourning ourselves, the 'blight man was born for'
Spring and Fall, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1880.
To a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.