This poem first appeared in the collection The Gate and Other Poems, published in 1962. It is dedicated to Day-Lewis's first son, Sean, and recalls a day when he was watching Sean go in to school. It has become one of his most enduring works and in 2001 was chosen by readers of the Radio Times as one of their top ten poems of childhood.
by Cecil Day-Lewis, Irish poet (1904-1972)
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature's give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one's irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
Simple words that profoundly touch
Without aiming to extract any obvious emotion
Some readers may get nostalgic and wistful
Some may feel moved by the pangs of parenthood
Some may recall their childhood and
Get insights ! on their parents...
This is what a great poem is like
Not using complicated words but
Expresses many complex feelings
Different from beautiful prose
In an undefinable way--for a lay reader
Applies to many other situations.
If you noticed the irony that this i-TFTD, coming after a long gap of 5 weeks, was preceded by one titled, "How to Get Unstuck", score +1 for yourself! Those kind readers who politely enquired (some telepathically I would like to believe) were a big motivation to get unstuck. My humble gratitude.