Still linger in our noon of time
And on our Saxon tongue
The echoes of the home-born hymns
The Aryan mothers sung.
And childhood had its litanies
In every age and clime;
The earliest cradles of the race
Were rocked to poet's rhyme.
Nor sky, nor wave, nor tree, nor flower,
Nor green earth's virgin sod,
So moved the singer's heart of old
As these small ones of God.
The mystery of unfolding life
Was more than dawning morn,
Than opening flower or crescent moon
The human soul new-born.
And still to childhood's sweet appeal
The heart of genius turns,
And more than all the sages teach
From lisping voices learns,
The voices loved of him who sang,
Where Tweed and Teviot glide,
That sound to-day on all the winds
That blow from Rydal-side,
Heard in the Teuton's household songs,
And folk-lore of the Finn,
Where'er to holy Christmas hearths
The Christ-child enters in!
Before life's sweetest mystery still
The heart in reverence kneels;
The wonder of the primal birth
The latest mother feels.
We need love's tender lessons taught
As only weakness can;
God hath His small interpreters;
The child must teach the man.
We wander wide through evil years,
Our eyes of faith grow dim;
But he is freshest from His hands
And nearest unto Him!
And haply, pleading long with Him
For sin-sick hearts and cold,
The angels of our childhood still
The Father's face behold.
Of such the kingdom! Teach Thou us,
O-Master most divine,
To feel the deep significance
Of these wise words of Thine!
The haughty eye shall seek in vain
What innocence beholds;
No cunning finds the key of heaven,
No strength its gate unfolds.
Alone to guilelessness and love
That gate shall open fall;
The mind of pride is nothingness,
The childlike heart is all
Child-Songs by John Greenleaf Whittier