“A Poem for the Ages” Nov. 29, 2022

Where do random thoughts come from? What makes them pop into mind for no apparent reason? And why can I recite a poem I learned long ago, but cannot for the life of me recall where I left my phone?

It can take hours to find it. The phone, not the poem. But it took only minutes to turn up this morning under my pillow where I left it when I got out of bed.

Either that, or my husband hid it there. I’m not saying he did that. I’m just saying he might, if he thought of it. He likes to joke even if I don’t think it’s funny.

I could have found the phone sooner if I’d done like my mama taught me and made that bed the minute I crawled out of it.

Do you do that? When I wake up — if I want to function like a civilized human who actually gives a rip about making a bed or finding a cell phone — I need coffee. Two cups. With cream.

With one cup I can say “Good morning” to my husband and ask, “Did you hide my phone?”

But it takes two cups for me to put on my shoes and go see if I left it (or he hid it) in the car.

I was on my second cup this morning when I missed my phone. My husband was in the garage. I didn’t ask him about it. I just started looking for it. And that’s when I began to hear in my head a poem I recited when I was 10 years old to win first place in my school’s recitation contest. It was a small a victory, not many contestants. But it was something and I was proud.

In “The Children’s Hour,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes the youngest (ages 10, 7 and 5) of his six children:

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

The gist of the poem is this: He hears his girls sneaking up. They rush in like an army of squirrels climbing a castle, overcoming him with kisses and taking him captive in their arms. Just when it seems he’s lost the battle, Longfellow says 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, / But put you down into the dungeon / In the round-tower of my heart. / And there will I keep you forever, / Yes, forever and a day, / Till the walls shall crumble to ruin, /And moulder in dust away!”

I loved how the words of that poem would roll off my tongue like snowmelt on a tin roof. It made me think of my granddad, a preacher, who knew by heart, and could recite with passion, from Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and other poetic passages of the King James.

The night I won that contest, Granddad was ill and couldn’t be there to hear me. But I wish you could’ve seen his face the next day when I recited, just for him, “The Children’s Hour.”

Years later, when he left this world to go preach to the angels, he took the love of all our family to keep us all forever and a day in the round-tower of his heart.

What put that poem in my head today? I was sipping coffee, trying to wake up, and thought of a phone call I got last night from my grandson.

Randy is 12, an artist, a writer, a musician, a skateboarder, a lifeguard and an absolute joy. He had surgery a while back for a broken arm, but thankfully, it healed and he’s good to go.

He’d been worried his arm might keep him from playing basketball. But he called last night happy to tell me he made the team. And I wish you could’ve seen my face.

When a child is born, parents and grandparents are often surprised to discover they will rejoice in that child’s happiness far more than in their own.

That poem is a bit different now when it plays in my head. Instead of Alice, Allegra and Edith, I hear all my children’s and grandchildren’s names. I picture Longfellow laughing with my granddad. And I wish you could see their faces.


  1. Mariruth J Coffin says

    Sharon, I’m not sure if reciting poetry is happening in the public schools because my great grandkids are all being homeschooled. Their mamas and daddies are teaching them to recite poetry and verses from the Bible. Memorizing is good for the brain and the soul….if the word pictures go to their souls as well as stuck in their heads. I love your paraphrase of “The Children’s Hour”, pulling the rhyming lyrics into life as it exists for us. Many children don’t know that kind of love. We are truly blessed.
    But, why do our minds wander to places hidden from us most of the time? You didn’t answer the question. Lots of want to know the answer!
    When I’m having my morning coffee, usually flavored with cinnamon and cream, and the world is quiet, my mind wanders down all kinds of trails, even if I attempt to have a focus. Sometimes the trail is a lot of fun. Sometimes I have to tell myself “don’t go there”. Such is the way of life for people my age and that’s okay.

  2. John Rhoads says

    Wow – I memorized that same poem myself along with another great one “Day Is Done” by the same poet. Recitation is a fading “art form” and it is to the detriment of our children. And yes, what is it that trips a memory? That is one of the magical aspects of life. Let’s live on!

  3. Kate Sciacca says

    Exactly right. Two cups, with cream (heavy cream if I’m not being healthy, half and half if I’m making the effort). Unfortunately no coffee tomorrow… had the second cataract surgery yesterday but it didn’t go too well… the surgeon is going to try a “do over” tomorrow. Usual instructions— no food (not a problem) and NO COFFEE (big problem) until after the 10am event.

    Randy sounds like one talented fellow… I call it the “curse of too many gifts” — but his nana will help him figure it out ;-).

    Blessings on your Advent!

  4. I love your writings and remembrances. You are such a treasure, Rose of Sharon.

  5. Tomas Jerles says

    This warmed my heart, much like the evening you, Juli and I drank wine and shared stories around our kitchen table. I wish I had written a poem to describe that experience. Tomas

  6. “When a child is born, parents and grandparents are often surprised to discover they will rejoice in that child’s happiness far more than in their own.” What a great line, pure truth, Sharon. Thanks so much for stirring my old soul with this excellent column. Blessings.

  7. What a beautiful article. I truly enjoy them every week. I miss our times with the 4 kids & their families during this time of year more than ever. God be with you & yours during this holiday season. Take care. I’m happy your grandson made the team. Some of our kids & grandkids have played in several sports, etc.

  8. Katie Musgrave says

    Sweet poem to recite and remember. Bet your grandpa joined you in being proud of your win. Coffee with cream is my first “go to” each morning . Those cell phones have a nasty habit of hiding with or without your hubby’s help.

  9. Dick Daniel says

    Love this and it brought back a memory of 7th grade English, where, we too, had to memorize and recite The Children’s Hour in front of our class. Our teacher loved to read and encouraged us to set aside a specific amount of time to read. She was a good one.

  10. 💚💚💚

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