Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Backward, Turn Backward, O Time, In Your Flight"


This morning as I turned the clock back to end daylight savings time for another year, these lines from a long ago poem came to mind.
Backward, turn backward, o time in your flight, Make me a child again just for tonight was all I could remember which sent me to google the rest of the poem. The poem is "Rock Me To Sleep" by Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen. (1832-1911)
After reading the entire poem and realizing it was about a woman remembering when her mother held her and rocked her to sleep, I knew I wanted a picture of my mom holding me to publish with this blog. But I couldn't think of any photos of my mom holding me as a baby. I found these in an old photo album.
In this one Mom holds me as I hold a teething ring in my right hand and reach for the dog (Fritz?) with my left. Barefoot big brother, Ronald, poses with a smile.






Both pictures had to have been taken in the spring of 1944. In the background, sitting on the running board of a car are two men - Dad's cousins, I believe. One of them is in uniform - home on leave from the army?
Ron looks so cute in his hat and suspenders. I wonder if the person behind the camera told him to put his hand in his pocket?


I have bookmarked a website of Elizabeth Akers Allen's poems to read more of her collection. Perhaps I'll recognize some other lines I read in the past.











Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen
Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!
Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—
Rock me to sleep, mother – rock me to sleep!
Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!
Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!
Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!
Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

7 comments:

  1. MY DAD USE TO QUOTE PART OF THIS POEM. THIS FATHER'S DAY I FOUND THESE WORDS GOING TROUGH MY MIND - SO I GOOGLED TO FIND OUT THE REST OF THE POEM. THANK YOU.

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  2. I too, just found among my Father's papers in his own hand, "backward turn backward, oh time in thy flight; make me a boy again just for tonight" He cited it when he was being honored by his village as "Man of the year" at close to age one hundred.

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  3. Thanks for this poem. I found it published on the front page of the May 7, 1862 issue of The Indiana Democrat newspaper (http://newspaperarchive.com/the-indiana-democrat/1862-05-07/).

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  4. Warren Beatty recites part of this poem in the movie "Promise Her Anything",,,,,

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  5. Thanks so much. I'm writing a biography of my mother, Elizabeth Huey Taylor Cook (1918-2000). She quoted from "Rock Me To Sleep" in a journal entry, some time back. I'll reference you and "
    "Chances R" in the book. Best Regards, David H. Cook / Louisville, Kentucky

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  6. In 1960 (approx) I was in Holland Hospital for surgery and the neatest older woman was a roommate and she would recite this poem that she had learned as a child in school. She never had any children and had a broken hip so could not go back home as she had no one to care for her. I am now about the age she was then, 70. She wanted someone to put a different color ribbon in her white hair every day. She advise to to take lady pickum if I wanted to have children. I will never forget her.

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  7. I love this poem. The words have been coming to me, and I just had to google the rest. Very sentimental and melancholy. Makes one yearn for childhood. Thank you

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