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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Birds of Passage

Flight the Second. The Children’s Hour

  • Included in the volume which contained the first series of Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863.

  • 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!