It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
Cecil Day-Lewis (1904 – 1972)
There are four five line stanzas with rhyming in first, third and last lines.
A poem all about separation of child from parent and still the parent remembers that first day of watching the child take to the sports field to play football. So maybe there is something special to warrant reflection at this time.
Our children have to grow up and move from home to school and develop new paths so aptly portrayed in the last line of the second stanza – who finds no path where the path should be.
But this poem is all about the pain of separation. Apart from dates there are many other triggers that can act to invoke the memory of a past event that has significant personal memory. It appears there was something very special in that movement of the child away from the parent – the child a hesitant figure, eddying away. It is usually the child that moves away rather than the parent.
Then in the third stanza a reflection of how nature frequently has such separations giving the example of a seed from a parent stem.
This parting is very special and gnaws at the mind. We do not know of course what has happened over the eighteen years and to what extent he has developed and grown and forged new paths, or indeed any associated personal tragedy that could have occured.
But parent child separation is an act of love and an imperative. Like God allowing humanity the freedom to develop; despite the times when we think he should be more involved!
Cecil Day-Lewis (or Day Lewis) often writing as C. Day-Lewis, was an Anglo-Irish poet and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 until his death in 1972.
Cecil Day-Lewis was buried at St Michael’s Church, Stinsford in Dorset close to Thomas Hardy.
Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say.
Ask my song.
from his poem – ‘Is it Far to Go’