Where Go The Children?

where go the children magazine cover poppies

This picture illustrated the January 1913 cover of a Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. It’s by S. B. Pearse. Susan Beatrice Pearse (1878 -1980) was an English Illustrator of children’s books. I don’t know what Pearse was illustrating here, but because of the association of poppies with sleep, it reminded me of one of my mother’s favourite James Whitcomb Riley’s poems, Dream March:

“Wasn’t it a funny dream! – perfectly bewild’rin’! –
Last night, and night before, and night before that,
Seemed like I saw the march o’ regiments o’ children,
Marching to the robin’s fife and cricket’s rat-ta-tat!
Lily-banners overhead, with the dew upon ’em,
On flashed the little army, as with sword and flame;
Like the buzz o’ bumble-wings, with the honey on ’em,
Came an eerie, cheery chant, chiming as it came: –

Where go the children? Travelling! Travelling!
Where go the children, travelling ahead?
Some go to kindergarten; some go to day-school;
Some go to night-school; and some go to bed!

Smooth roads or rough roads, warm or winter weather,
On go the children, tow-head and brown,
Brave boys and brave girls, rank and file together,
Marching out of Morning-Land, over dale and down:

Some go a-gypsying out in country places –
Out through the orchards, with blossoms on the boughs
Wild, sweet, and pink and white as their own glad faces;
And some go, at evening, calling home the cows.

Where go the children? Travelling! Travelling!
Where go the children, travelling ahead?
Some go to foreign wars, and camps by the firelight –
Some go to glory so; and some go to bed!

Some go through grassy lanes leading to the city –
Thinner grow the green trees and thicker grows the dust;
Ever, though, to little people any path is pretty
So it leads to newer lands, as they know it must.
Some go to singing less; some go to list’ning;
Some go to thinking over ever-nobler themes;
Some go anhungered, but ever bravely whistling,
Turning never home again only in their dreams.

Where go the children? Travelling! Travelling!
Where go the children, travelling ahead?
Some go to conquer things; some go to try them;
Some go to dream them; and some go to bed!

Two of ours are travelling, travelling this month- off to Nebraska and to Pennsylvania (and later New York, but first a honeymoon in Austria, homeland of The Carpenter’s mother, and where he was born).

When our children were younger we had the mistaken impression that we were so responsible for everything to do with and about them that, without thinking it through, we unknowingly held the assumption that were basically their authors and perfectors, their creators.  Sometimes I felt like if I didn’t teach them everything they needed to know by the time they were 18, I was a failure.  That’s an immense responsibility and burden, and fortunately, it’s also false.

Children are born persons.  They continue to be persons, their own persons.  They launch into the world as their own persons.  You can influence. You can certainly help or hinder, cripple, damage, break, as well as strengthen, encourage, and aid in teaching them about the paths before them- but it’s not all about you.   It’s a well worn proverb that children are only on loan from God, and it’s so well worn because it’s so very true.

Where go the children?

Travelling ahead.

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