“To a Child” by Sophie Jewett

The leaves talked in the twilight, dear;
 Harken the tale they told:
How in some far-off place and year,
 Before the world grew old,

I was a dreaming forest tree,
 You were a wild, sweet bird
Who sheltered at the heart of me
 Because the north wind stirred;

How, when the chiding gale was still,
 When peace fell soft on fear,
You stayed one golden hour to fill
 My dream with singing, dear.

To-night the self-same songs are sung
 The first green forest heard;
My heart and the gray world grow young—
 To shelter you, my bird.

Poem selected and commented on by Mathilde Sharman

As someone who has been intimidated by poetry in the past, I appreciate the structure of Sophie Jewett’s “To a Child.” Each stanza touches on a theme and connects to the next in a style similar to prose, gradually guiding my understanding.

In the second and third stanza, Jewett describes what the child meant to her and the child’s departure from her life. Finally, the poem’s ending calls back to youth, describing how the poet’s “heart and the gray world grow young— / To shelter you, my bird” (15). The prose style of the transitions between each stanza allows readers to appreciate the stanzas individually and together. The poem’s imagery and personification also contribute to its impact, most notably in the third stanza: “When peace fell soft on fear, / You stayed one golden hour to fill / My dream with singing, dear” (10-13).

I initially interpreted “To a Child” as the poet’s experience with a miscarriage but decided the poem told a more general story. Whatever a reader ultimately derives from the poem, Jewett gives each stanza a clear message, which allows readers to gradually and authentically develop their understanding of the poem.

Jewett, Sophie. “To a Child.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57830/the-three-kings.