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!



  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.

  3. Thanks for this poem. I found it published on the front page of the May 7, 1862 issue of The Indiana Democrat newspaper (

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

  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

  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.

  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