A Poem For Saturday


Between the dark and the daylight,
    When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
    That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
    The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
    And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
    Descending the broad hall-stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
    And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
    Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
    To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
    A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
    They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
    O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
    They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
    Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
    In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
    Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old moustache as I am
    Is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress,
    And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeons
    In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
    Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
    And moulder in dust away!

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Children's Hour" first published in the Atlantic in September 1860.

We're hoping to add more classic poetry from the Atlantic archives in the coming weeks and months. If you have a favorite, please let us know.

(Photo: A visually impaired child plays during a 'dahi-handi' (curd-pot) celebration at the Victoria School for the Blind in Mumbai on September 1, 2010, on the eve of 'Janmashtami' which marks the birth of Hindu God Lord Krishna. Scores of Hindu devotees of Lord Krishna take part in the dahi-handi celebrations during which a large earthenware pot is filled with milk, curds, butter, honey and fruits and is suspended from a height of between 20 to 40 feet. Sporting young men and boys come forward to claim this prize by constructing a human pyramid till the pyramid is tall enough to enable the topmost person to reach the pot and claim the contents after breaking it. Normally, currency notes are tied to the rope by which the pot is suspended and this prize money is distributed among those who participate in the pyramid building. By Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images)