Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Children's Hour

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

     What utter sentimental crap.
     My mother used to read this poem to me when I was a child, and I've always hated it, so I figure this is a good one to start this new venture on. Presumably, she thought that, because I was a child, I would appreciate a poem about children. I didn't. (I wanted her to flip the pages of her slim volume of poetry a few to the right and read "The Raven," which has a beautiful musical quality to it even if you don't get the allusions or understand quite what is happening.)
     The entirety of the poem is quoted here, in purple italics. Let us begin.

Between the dark and the daylight,
     When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
     That is known as the Children's Hour.

     Oh God, you just know this is going to be awful. "THIS IS A POEM. IT HAS METER AND RHYME LIKE A NURSERY RHYME BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT CHILDREN, SEE?" Not to mention, for a first stanza that rhyme is just damned lazy. Throughout this whole poem, Longfellow doesn't really seem to care about when he uses lazy rhymes or perfect rhymes, like he never even wanted to write this poem in the first place. Well, you know what, Henry? We all wish you hadn't.

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.

      Did he seriously just write "the patter of little feet?" Shoot me now. "Voices soft and sweet?" For a man who was married twice and had six kids, you'd think he never even met any children.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
     Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice and laughing Allegra,
     And Edith with golden hair.

     I have to feel bad for Edith here. Alice and Allegra (you named your daughter after an allergy medication? She must have been born in spring...) have at least something of a personality, but poor Edith just has a hair color. Maybe being blonde was considered a personality trait in those days?

A whisper, and then 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!

     Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees a rape metaphor here. Goddamned rape culture. It's getting into stupid poems about children now. Oh, and speaking of metaphors...

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.

     What a weak line, "they seem to be everywhere!" That's like a go-to filler line for people who suck at writing poetry. Sure, write it down so you can move on, but you gotta go back and replace it with something better, Henry! It's called proofreading, darling. Try it sometime.

They almost devour me with kisses,

(I wish they had, so you wouldn't have written this stupid poem...)

     Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
     In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine.

     Do you often find yourself thinking about the Bishop of Bingen, Henry? That seems like a strange person for your mind to wander towards. Oh wait, you're just making sure you reach the minimum quota for historical/literary allusions required by 19th-century poets, aren't you? Because I'll tell ya, having to stop to look up the Bishop of Bingen while reading a worthless sentimental poem really ruins the mood, ya know? It takes away from the experience of your poem, such as it is. Then again, a story about a douchebag who's eaten alive by mice is a heck of a lot more interesting than this!

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,

(Here's where the panic sets in... "what rhymes with 'depart' other than the inevitable? Oh God, oh God, he's not going to - ?!")

But put you down into the dungeon
     In the round-tower of my heart.

     NOOOOO!!! Ick. Sentimental bullshit. OK, just one more stanza to go. We can do this.

And there will I keep you forever,
     Yes, forever and a day,
Till the wall shall crumble to ruin,
     And moulder in dust away.

     Vomit-inducing. Ugh.

     I know Longfellow never really was one for introspective, philosophical, or even mildly intelligent poetry, but this! This poem is the epitome of middle-aged, middle-class, safe-and-easy, heart-string-pulling crap. Totally and utterly worthless.

     Fuck this poem and everything it stands for.

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