Posted by: New in Every Way | August 31, 2012

An Unexpected Message from the Past

* *   RaNdoM StuFF   **

During the last five years of my father’s life, I was re-introduced to the poetry he loved. I say “re-introduced” because I first opened his poetry books and notebooks as a child when I was supposed to be dusting them. I eventually did whisk them off—but not without first getting lost for a while in the sentiments and rollicky rhymes inside.

Now, many of these poems seem quaint. Take, for example, this one from The Best Loved Poems of the American People:

THE MODERN BABY

“The hand that rocks the cradle”—but there is no such hand;
It is bad to rock the baby, they would have us understand;
So the cradle’s but a relic of the former foolish days
When mothers reared their children in unscientific ways—
When they jounced them and they bounced them, these poor dwarfs of long ago—
The Washingtons and Jeffersons and Adamses, you know.

They warn us that the baby will possess a muddled brain
If we dandle him or rock him—we must carefully refrain;
He must lie in one position, never swayed and never swung,
Or his chance to grow to greatness will be blasted while he’s young.
Ah! To think how they were ruined by their mothers long ago—
The Franklins and the Putnams and the Hamiltons, you know. . . .
—William Croswell Doane (1832-1913)

See what I mean? Definitely outdated.

That’s all I saw at first, when Dad showed me this poem. But then several thoughts punctured my 21-century smugness. I realized:

  • Americans of 150 years ago were no less intelligent than we. Their health care professionals—like ours—were continually searching for better ways to safeguard children’s health and development. And parents of that day—like ours—had to trust their own common sense in the presence of those who were supposed to be experts.
  • What is regarded as modern today will soon be old-fashioned. As far as this poem is concerned, that includes our science and our artistic expression.

I found these revelations pretty humbling. They gave new meaning to Paul’s words:

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Rom. 12:3 NIV) but be “honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Rom. 12:3b NLT).

You know, the poem above, outdated though it was, still spoke to me. I have decided to feel good about what the Lord enables me to do, and leave the results up to him. My words will not be in style forever, but—if I make room for it—my contributions will have the stamp of his eternal genius.

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