This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn --
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn --
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
-- Madeleine L'Engle
The Weather of the Heart
This is one of three poems I am working on for an Advent performance this weekend. I have always admired Madeleine L'Engle's work (A Wrinkle in Time…? Yes, please!), so I was thrilled to receive my text yesterday and discover that I am going to get to say these words out loud for an audience. Fantastic!
Here's one of my favorite L'Engle quotes:
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
Even though I tell the stories on stage, I still get something from what she's saying here. Truth is difficult. I think it is really beautiful that children are often more open to it than adults. This is one of the reason why I am thinking about writing my thesis on the importance of elocution programs in elementary schools. It's not really done anymore. Maybe I was in the last generation to receive it in my curriculum in the early 80's? It was scary (and thrilling!) to get up in front of the class and recite a piece that you worked on all week at home. I also loved receiving pieces that my teacher selected just for me - I was always looking for secret meanings: surely s/he thought of me immediately when this poem was pulled out of the filing cabinet?
One of the first things that I learned when I started studying Shakespeare is that he used poetry to distill truth down to its very essence when a character had something important to say. I learned a respectful smattering of poetry when I was a child and I would love to see children reciting great works again. You know Truth when it comes out of your mouth -- you can't help but feel it in your beating heart. It's scary, sure, but so necessary.