Poem of the Week: Children Selecting Books In A Library by Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell

Children Selecting Books In A Library

With beasts and gods, above, the wall is bright.
The child’s head, bent to the book-colored shelves,
Is slow and sidelong and food-gathering,
Moving in blind grace … yet from the mural, Care
The grey-eyed one, fishing the morning mist,
Seizes the baby hero by the hair
And whispers, in the tongue of gods and children,
Words of a doom as ecumenical as dawn
But blanched like dawn, with dew.
The children’s cries
Are to men the cries of crickets, dense with warmth
— But dip a finger into Fafnir, taste it,
And all their words are plain as chance and pain.
Their tales are full of sorcerers and ogres
Because their lives are: the capricious infinite
That, like parents, no one has yet escaped
Except by luck or magic; and since strength
And wit are useless, be kind or stupid, wait
Some power’s gratitude, the tide of things.
Read meanwhile … hunt among the shelves, as dogs do, grasses,
And find one cure for Everychild’s diseases
Beginning: Once upon a time there was
A wolf that fed, a mouse that warned, a bear that rode
A boy. Us men, alas! wolves, mice, bears bore.
And yet wolves, mice, bears, children, gods and men
In slow preambulation up and down the shelves
Of the universe are seeking … who knows except themselves?
What some escape to, some escape: if we find Swann’s
Way better than our own, an trudge on at the back
Of the north wind to — to — somewhere east
Of the sun, west of the moon, it is because we live
By trading another’s sorrow for our own; another’s
Impossibilities, still unbelieved in, for our own …
“I am myself still?” For a little while, forget:
The world’s selves cure that short disease, myself,
And we see bending to us, dewy-eyed, the great
CHANGE, dear to all things not to themselves endeared.

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Categories: Poems

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