friday feast: sweet words for valentine’s day

hearts line
via lucia and mapp

Recently, while browsing through The Poets Laureate Anthology (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), I came across this wonderful poem by William Jay Smith that’s just perfect for Valentine’s Day.

I’m a sucker for the short lyrical line and fell for it immediately, all the while wondering why I hadn’t seen it before. Most of you probably know this poem, perhaps as the lyrics of a children’s song or as a wedding ceremony recitation. I like how it celebrates that pure, unconditional love between parent and child, as well as the romantic love that has the power to sweep us off our feet at any age. With its charm, whimsy and unbounded declaration, the poem expresses the love we all live and long for — beginning to end, above, below, around, and between.

cassatt child
“The Child’s Caress” by Mary Cassatt (1890)

A PAVANE FOR THE NURSERY
by William Jay Smith

Now touch the air softly,
Step gently. One, two…
I’ll love you till roses
Are robin’s-egg blue;
I’ll love you till gravel
Is eaten for bread,
And lemons are orange,
And lavender’s red.

Now touch the air softly,
Swing gently the broom.
I’ll love you till windows
Are all of a room;
And the table is laid,
And the table is bare,
And the ceiling reposes
On bottomless air.

I’ll love you till Heaven
Rips the stars from his coat,
And the Moon rows away in
A glass-bottomed boat;
And Orion steps down
Like a diver below,
And Earth is ablaze,
And Ocean aglow.

So touch the air softly,
And swing the broom high.
We will dust the gray mountains,
And sweep the blue sky;
And I’ll love you as long
As the furrow the plow,
As However is Ever,
And Ever is Now.

(1954) Alternate title: “Now Touch the Air Softly”

cloudhea rt
via Miss Mae

Sigh, I’m floating . . .

poetryfriday180The lovely Tara is hosting today’s Roundup at A Teaching Life. Enjoy the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week and have a delicious, extra chocolaty Valentine’s Day!

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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

47 thoughts on “friday feast: sweet words for valentine’s day

  1. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I’m floating, too, Jama!! What a lovely poem!! Perfect for Valentine’s Day, indeed. I could not help but think of Pablo Neruda’s love sonnet and Lemony Snicket’s Beatrice Letters. Oh, love. =)

    Thank you for letting me partake in your Friday Feast!! =)

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  2. For one, I learned a new word, “pavane.” I wasn’t familiar with this poem (or song) either – how absolutely lovely. Thank you for sending us into Valentine’s week with something so airy and sweet.

    (And, two – really? you can arrange visits from the current Eye Candy? Be still my heart…!)

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    1. Robyn, I can arrange visits with all the Eye Candies featured here.:) One at a time, of course.

      I like the word “pavane,” and am anxious to see more of Smith’s poetry!

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  3. This is a poem in itself:

    I’ll love you till windows
    Are all of a room;

    We don’t do much for St. Valentine’s Day. It falls smack in the middle of our stacked-up birthdays. But there will be chocolate. Oh, yes. There will be chocolate.

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  4. I love the poem and the visual feast! My favorite stanza is the one about the night sky — star buttons, the moon in his glass-bottomed boat, all of it. Gorgeous!

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  5. That chubby little hand on her mother’s mouth…I can almost feel it on mine, and my lips pulling together to give it a little kiss. The poem could be a transcription of what’s in that mother’s heart. Thank you for rinsing all the syrup of of love and giving it to us plain and true.

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    1. Thanks for the nice comment, Mary Lee — I do find this time of year overly syrupy at times, so I’m glad you found this poem “plain and true.” Mary Cassatt is one of my favorite artists:).

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  6. And I’ll love you as long
    As the furrow the plow,
    As However is Ever,
    And Ever is Now.

    Perfectly said! Thanks for this lovely treat, Jama….

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  7. My favorite favorite lines:
    “I’ll love you till Heaven
    Rips the stars from his coat,
    And the Moon rows away in
    A glass-bottomed boat;
    And Orion steps down
    Like a diver below,
    And Earth is ablaze,
    And Ocean aglow.”

    There is stark passion here (ripping the stars from his coat, such imagery) yet there is also gentleness and quiet (glass-bottomed boat) and the mixture of the elements – fire and water (ablaze/Ocean) – I am a Water Dragon – this poem spoke to me today. I am in love. Beautiful.

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