O child of mine

For the dverse open night, Grace has posted a hommage to W.B. Yeats by Auden. I am going to post this poem, inspired indirectly by Yeats’ poems to his children.


O child of mine, I hear you sigh

And murmur in your sleep at night,

While in the trees the white owls cry,

And white wings flutter out of sight.

I hear you murmur in your sleep,

In dreams that take you far from here,

Where children never have to weep,

Where children never have to fear.

I’d wrap you in a gown of silk

And strew with rowan berries red

Your bedsheets, white as morning milk,

To keep away the fears you dread.

I cannot keep you, now you’re grown,

Safe with red berries, child of mine,

All your dreams with white owls flown,

And crystal water turned to wine.

Dispersed the magic rainbow arc,

Gone, berry bright and salmon leap,

So from the incense-clouded dark,

Your heart safe in my hands I’ll keep.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

79 thoughts on “O child of mine”

      1. That’s true. I have given much thought to anxiety in relation to hope, sometimes I think anxiety can color our belief in hope, other times though I think we’re just being realistic about things being messed up.

      2. WP is being creepy! I was typing a reply to this and it disappeared. When it came back I had to approve it. It’s already disappeared a comment of yours today.
        Anxiety could be like adrenalin, warning us that we ought to keep a look out for danger. But it also wears us to a frazzle sometimes needlessly, so you wonder if it isn’t just a glitch in the nervous system.

      3. Lately WP has been odd, I have noticed less seem to be on WP and commenting/reading too, not sure if that’s just personal or wide-spread, either way grrr. Look in SPAM I found a bunch the other day. Yes anxiety is a lot like adrenalin you’re so right. I wonder, maybe it is as simple as a glitch in the nervous system, I could believe this, a misfiring

      4. I accidentally trashed your previous comment! You said that some people prefer to pretend that life is wonderful, not facing up to its unpleasant side. You’re right. Nothing is ever perfect. Like when I hear people talking about ‘my three/two/whatever wonderful children, I squirm. They are people with their defects, no more wonderful than anyone else. We may excuse their faults and love them dearly. We may heartily dislike them but still love them dearly. Doesn’t make them ‘wonderful’.

      5. I agree – you see I think it’s become ‘wrong’ to tell the truth in favor of a ‘positive’ ‘everything’s incredible’ approach and if that were authentic great, but how can it be? So it becomes something deeply false and trying to be positive turns into something insincere and that may even be why so many are upset with things, because they feel the pressure to be positive even when it’s clear that’s not accurate. I think I like that you are honest – blunt – you say when something is wonderful but you equally say when it’s not. As you say, just saying something doesn’t make it so.

      6. If only! But you’re right, it’s like physical appearance. It has to be perfect, youthful. Everything that isn’t perfect and fun and happy is failure. People don’t like to admit to it, so they pretend it’s not there. I find it tiring.

      7. Right? I’d go out of my mind if I were born today, with the era of selfies. As a kid I NEVER thought about stuff like that, I was free of it. Nowadays you see pre-teens agonizing over angles and hairstyles in a way that is so close-up-and-personal they are compeletely beholden to a world of artifice and competition. The world appears drowning in me, me, me, no room for the quiet solitude and observance that used to make such lovely contemplations. Do people even know how to contemplate anymore? I wonder. I find it tiring also because it’s like being a member of a pep squad (cheerleader) 24/7 ad nauseum 😉

      1. Actually I think it’s right up there. It is one of the best things of yours that I have read. Speaks right to my heart and the rhythm is beautiful.

  1. What a lovely poem, really enjoyed reading it. I like the vivid image of the red berries on the white sheets, as well as the tender, protective lyricism. Ah, if only…

  2. If only we can, I am sure we will ~ These lines really moved me Jane:

    Where children never have to weep,

    Where children never have to fear.

  3. i love Yeats too and my contribution for this prompt has him in it too. I see the words you use as familiar as reading his, murmurs being one he used with much frequency and love. Beautiful writing Jane!

    1. Thank you! I don’t know how anyone can’t love Yeats, but his poetry is not ‘fashionable’ these days. I love the symbolism and the mysticism. Take that out of life and it’s hardly worth writing about.

      1. I know right?! as you so well say it the symbols and mysticism that made his poetry so different from the rest. happy we both enjoy his old world charm

      2. was just talking to someone about this and the poetry these days does not seem to have the same flair and flow of simple words. a lot of angst and bombastic words that leave the reader tired and vexed.

      3. I know what you mean. Either ultra personal, purposely obscure and self-consciously clever clever, or full of those ‘uplifting’ sentiments that make me want to cringe, or worse, slap someone!

  4. What we do not realise until our children are grown is that the hard part is just beginning. We can no longer kiss it better or put a bandaid on it and often must simply stand by in loving watch as our children hurt, unable to do anything.

  5. Beautiful echoes of one of my favourite poets. I love the classical form and spell-like chant and tone of your poem, Jane, as well as the reminder of my daughter’s childhood. There is something magical about a sleeping child – you don’t know what’s going on behind their closed lids!

  6. I never had children of my own but have watched my sister’s children go through this process. Knocks and bruises in adulthood is just as bad as those endured in childhood.

    1. I think they’re harder to endure. Children can be comforted. Often their problems can be sorted out by a loving adult. When they start on their own life as adult, it’s much harder to sort things out for them.

  7. It’s a powerful poem Jane, made all the more so by the emotive writing which sounds like it is pulled from life’s very marrow. I’d love to offer some wisdom as a father of three grown ones but the reality is when times are hard for them you have to hold your own heart in a place of openness, trust, hope and do your very best to keep breathing. Love is a powerful force.

    1. I think that’s probably the key, to create a place around yourself where they can come and take a breather from it all. Even when there is nothing materially you can do to help them.

      1. The sexist comment is usually (to me) it’s normal. You’re a mother—you worry. It’s more than worrying though it’s visualising a whole scenario with rail crashes and plane crashes and death and separation and god knows what all else. Then, as you say, the sun comes out and it looks as though we might avoid the worst after all.

      2. At least I work out some of my worst case scenarios in writing. My grandmother spent half her life haranguing embassies and consulates to check up on her children and grandchildren.

  8. I’m literally listening to the sighs and murmurs of my children right now as I read your poem — such bliss and bittersweetness. When the day comes, oh boy, how am I going to hand my babies to the world?

    1. You’re going to find it difficult like the rest of us, I imagine. And you’ll have to watch them fall in and out of love, have disappointment after disappointment, and you won’t be able to do anything but carry on loving them.

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