Another Children’s Hour

When I was a child, from my earliest days, I listened to the radio. When I was a baby, my parents had it on all the time, so I would hear daytime programmes such as Housewives Choice, Workers’ Playtime, comedies such as the Goon Show, Ray’s a Laugh, The Navy Lark, and of course Hancock’s Half Hour. There would be plays and news programmes, and as we had no TV that was where all our news of the world came from.

When I was a little older it would be Listen With Mother; songs, rhymes, stories for little children. Then when I was older still there was that magic time between five and six, Children’s Hour. There was a sad news item on the radio the other day; the last remaining children’s radio programmes are being cancelled. Sad though I am, I can’t blame the decision; times have changed, children are different, what appealed in twentieth century is no longer relevant in the twenty-first.

Here is a rather sweet poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, most famous for ‘Hiawatha’. He was born in 1807 and published this in 1860. He had six children,  Charles  (1844–1893), Ernest  (1845–1921), Fanny (1847–1848), Alice  (1850–1928), Edith (1853–1915), and Anne Allegra (1855–1934), and this was obviously written for the three youngest.

The Children’s Hour

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 mustache 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 dungeon
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

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