Personal Choice 95
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
Cecil Day-Lewis (1904 - 1972), often written as C. Day-Lewis, was an Irish-born, British poet and Poet Laureate from 1968 until his death in 1972. He also wrote mystery stories under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake. During World War II, Day-Lewis worked as a publication’s editor in the Ministry of Information for the UK government, and also served in the Musbury branch of the British Home Guard. He is the father of actor Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, and documentary filmmaker and television chef Tamasin Day-Lewis.
Day-Lewis’ best poem gnaws at that sometimes-unexpected
moment when we have to let our children walk away.