When we’re children, we’re often in a hurry to grow up. To our young eyes, adulthood as a time of unlimited freedom.
Later, we look back to our childhood, real or imagined, and wish for those carefree days again.
I explore this theme, among others, in my novel “Garden of Heaven.” One of my favourite poets, though not well known these days, St.-John Perse, also explores this theme in “To Celebrate a Childhood,” a poem found in Éloges and Other Poems.
He asks, as I do, “Sinon l’enfance, qu’y avait-il alors qu’il n’y a plus?” (“Other than childhood, what was there in those days that is not here today?”)
Perse is not, I think, seeking a list of dates, events, inventions, names of kings and presidents. so much as the sense of things and the feeling of things. Childhood, as we look back on it, is a state of mind, perhaps more real in our memory of it, than it was when we first lived it.
In “Fern Hill,” Dylan Thomas suggests that we should celebrate childhood in all all its innocence before we grow old and follow the sun out of grace. Looking back, the poet writes, “Time let me hail and climb, golden in the heydays of his eyes, and green and golden I was huntsman and hersman, the calves sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold, and the sabbath rang slowly in the pebbles of the holy streams.”
Childhood in so many ways is our own personal Garden of Eden out of which we grow up and lose our innocence. Our journeys pull us away from that innocence perhaps, as Robertson Davies wrote in Fifth Business, “One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.”
We cannot–at least for now–stay in the Garden. We have miles to go before we sleep and worlds to discover and ourselves to explore. But I wonder if part of growing up is learning hour to carry more of those old green and golden days with us into the practical world of adulthood.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by on November 21 for Blog Jog Day.