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Featured Poem: Answer To A Child’s Question by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 5th July 2010

In previous Featured Poem posts I have discussed the fact that I am most definitely, 100%, a nocturnal kind of person. Since as far back as I can remember I have always preferred night time to any other time of day, and my parents often find it necessary to fill in the gaps where my memory doesn’t quite stretch so far back by telling me how as an infant I would be wide awake at the most ridiculous of hours, giving them metaphorical and literal headaches, as well as turning them into near-insomniacs for a few years. I’m still trying to make up for that.

My penchant for late nights does mean that my body clock is somewhat out of sync with time as it conventionally stands. For the most part, this doesn’t cause me too many problems aside from the occasional mid-morning to midday slump in energy and my resolving that I really will get to bed earlier that night (unless it’s absolutely vital that I do so, I’m never much good at seeing that through –there’s always some form of distraction that can better occupy...until morning time comes and I have a lethargic feeling of déjà vu). Unfortunately lately I’ve found that there are other things getting in the way of a decent night’s sleep than just my nocturnal habits (at the time of writing, I’m suffering slightly thanks to my sleeping pattern being very disjointed the previous night). Although I am enjoying the prolonged spell of warm weather we’ve been having – 2 weeks of it is prolonged for a British summer, at least – I am not a fan of the muggy hours of darkness that accompany the glorious summer days . As my bedroom replicates the heat of an oven, a sauna and a desert combined in the summertime (and plummets to arctic-like temperatures in the winter), to say it’s a tad uncomfortable would be an understatement. Then there’s the sun, which rises incredibly early at the moment and on particularly bright days has a knack of rousing me – and near blinding me. Quite often this stupidly premature sunrise is accompanied by the sound of every bird in a five mile radius coming to life – some chirping, some squawking, some making an altogether unique and quite unusual noise. No matter how sweetly they may sing, at that hour I can not smile at them; the best I can do is grunt something incomprehensible and bury my head further into my pillow.

But of course, after a reasonable proportion of daylight has passed – and I’ve gotten enough sleep to see me through – I’m more than happy to listen to some beautiful birdsong. In fact, I think there’s probably few things on earth more soothing than sitting reading a novel on a sunny day while birds provide a soundtrack; just the mental image instantly relaxes. Here’s a charming little poem from Samuel Taylor Coleridge which sums up the how wondrous and joyful birdsong is, especially in summertime. Now if I can just bring this to mind the next time I’m awoken earlier than I’d like to be by a bird chorus, then all will be well...

Answer To A Child’s Question

Do you ask what the birds say? The sparrow, the dove,
The linnet, and thrush say, 'I love and I love!'
In the winter they're silent, the wind is so strong;
What it says I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving, all come back together.
Then the lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings, and forever sings he--
'I love my Love, and my Love loves me!'

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

1 thought on “Featured Poem: Answer To A Child’s Question by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Christine Reynolds says:

I really enjoy receiving the poems each week, but wonder if you could supply a bit more information regarding the poem in the context of the poet’s work or life, or of what was going on at the time it was written. You used to provide a bit more information on the poem itself and this was really interesting.

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