No poet is ever completely lost. He has the secret of his childhood safe with
him, like some secret cave in which he can kneel. And,
when we read his poetry, we can join him there. Peter Ackroyd Chatterton, ch.10.
Old age is second childhood. Aristophanes Nubes ( The Clouds),
Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells And sights, before
the dark of reason grows. SirJohn Betjeman Summoned By Bells, ch.4.
But childhood prolonged cannot remain a fairy-land.
It becomes a hell. Louise Bogan On Katherine Mansfield.'Childhood's False Eden'.
We wove a web in childhood, A web of sunny air;
We dug a spring in
infancy Of water pure and
fair; We sowed in youth a
mustard seed, We cut an almond
rod; We are now grown up
to riper age Are they withered
in the sod? Charlotte Bronte« 'We Wove a Web in Childhood'.
Remember your own childhood. That complete certainty you had,
looking at the grown-ups, that you would never be like
that. It was a lonely feeling, but euphoric, too. Jane Campion Interview with Sarah Gristwood in The Times
Magazine, 'Jane Campion: A
long for scenes where man hath never trod A place where woman
never smiled or wept There to abide with
my Creator God And sleep as I in childhood sweetly
slept, Untroubling and
untroubled where I lie The grass below,
above, the vaulted sky. John Clare 'I Am'.
Do you know anyone who wouldsecretly, sincerely, in his innermost
selfreally prefer to return to childhood? Anita ne e Mazumbar Desai The Clear Light of Day, ch.1.
If I could only live at the pitch that is near madness When everything is
as it was in my childhood Violent, vivid and
of infinite possibility. Richard Ghormley Eberhart 'If I Could Only Live at the Pitch That Is Near
and Ireally hopeno white person ever has causetowrite about me because they never
understand Black love is Black wealth and they'll probably talk about
my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was
quite happy Nikki in full Yolande CorneliaGiovanni,Jr Giovanni Black Judgement,'Nikki^Rosa'.
You lost yourability for doing things in childhood It all beganwithyourinability
toputonyoursocksand ended by your inability
to live. Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov Oblomov, pt.4, ch.2 (translated by David
There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets
the future in. (Henry) Graham Greene The Power and the Glory, pt.1, ch.1.
From his childhood onward this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and
flatterers by the score, and will be taught to believe
himself as of a superior creation. A line will be drawn
between him and the people whom he is to be called upon
some day to reign over. In due course, following the
precedent which has already been set, he will be sent on a
tour round the world, and probably rumours of a morganatic
alliancewill follow, and the end of it all will
bethattheCountry will be calledupontopay the bill. (James) Keir Hardie Speech in the House of Commons, 28 Jun, opposing
an Address of
Congratulation to the Queen being passed in the House of Commons, on
the birth of a son (the future Edward VIII) to the Duke
and Duchess ofYork.
What we've doneinthis country inthepast fewdecades is socialize the
cost of growing old and privatize the cost of childhood. Sylvia Ann Hewlett In the Washington Post, 22 Feb.
I believe that the experience of childhood is irretrievable. All
that remains, foranyof us, is a handful of brilliant frozen
moments, already dangerously distorted by the wisdoms of
maturity. Penelope (Margaret) Lively Oleander, Jacaranda, preface.
Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish
childhood, and worse yet isthemiserable Irish Catholic
childhood. Frank McCourt Angela's Ashes, ch.1.
In my childhood trees were green And there was
plenty to be seen. Come back early or
never come. (Frederick) Louis MacNeice Plant and Phantom,'Autobiography', l.1^3.
Is it not possible that the rage for confession, autobiography,
especially for memories of earliest childhood, is
explained by our persistent yet mysterious belief in a self
which is continuous and permanent; which, untouched by
all we acquire and all we shed, pushes a green
spear through the dead leaves and throughthemould,
thrusts a scaled bud through years of darkness until, one
day, the light discovers it and shakes the flower free
andwe are alivewe are flowering for our moment upon the
earth? This is the moment which after all, we live
forthe moment of direct feeling when we are most
ourselves and least personal. Beauchamp Journal entry, Apr.
For some time I watch the coming of the night Above is the glistening
galaxy of childhood, now hidden in the Western world by air
pollution and the glare of artificial light; for my
children's children, the power, peace and healing of the
night will be obliterated. Peter Matthiessen Of the night sky in Nepal. The Snow Leopard,'Northward,
Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age The child isgrown,
and puts away childish things. Childhood is the
kingdom where nobody dies. Nobody that
matters, that is. Edna St Vincent Millay Wine From These Grapes,'Childhood is the Kingdom
where Nobody dies'.
The childhood shows the man, As morning shows
the day. Be famous then By wisdom; as thy
empire must extend, So let extend thy
mind o'er all the world. John Milton Paradise Regained, bk.4, l.220^3.
Held in the custody of childhood is a locked chest; the adolescent,
byonemeans oranother, triestoopenit. the chest is opened:
inside, there is nothing. Yukio pseudonym of Hiraoka Kimitake Mishima Acts
ofWorship,'Cigarette' (translated byJohn Bester,1989).
Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood:all
sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, fromwhich
Isometimesfear that weshall never wake till we are
jerked out of it by the roar of bombs. George pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair Orwell Homage to Catalonia, ch.14.
The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and
good bad books, create in one's mind a sort of false map
of the world, a series of fabulous countries into
which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest
of life, and which in some cases can even survive a
visit to the real countries which they are supposed to
represent. George pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair Orwell 'Riding Down from Bangor'.
All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I
wrote about mine you wouldn't sit in the same room with me. Dorothy ne e Rothschild Parker In the Paris Review, Summer.
Ich habe um meine Kindheit gebeten, und sie ist wiedergekommen, und
ich fu« hle, dass sie immer noch so schwer ist wie
damals, und dass es nichts genu« tzt hat, a« lter zu werden.
I prayed to
rediscover my childhood, and it has come back, and I feel
that it is just as difficult as it used to be, and that growing
older has served no purpose at all. 687 Rainer Maria Rilke DieAufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge
(translated by Stephen Mitchell in
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1989).
In ancient shadows and twilights Where childhood had
strayed, The world's great
sorrows were born And its heroes were
made. In the lost boyhood
of Judas, Christ was
betrayed. GeorgeWilliam pseudonym Ã“ Russell Enchantment and Other Poems,'Germinal'.
Hab|a un solo t u nel, oscuro y solitario: el m|o, el t u nel en que hab|a
transcurrido mi infancia, mi juventud, toda mi vida
Yentonces, mientras yo avanzaba siempre por mi
pasadizo, ella viv|a afuera su vida normal, la vida
agitada que llevan esas gentes que viven afuera. There was only one
tunnel, dark and solitary: mine, the tunnel in which I
had spent my childhood, my youth, my entire life And
then, while I kept moving through my passageway, she
lived her normal life outside, the exciting life of
people who live outside. Ernesto Sa bato El tu nel, ch.36 (translated asThe
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably wantto
know iswhere Iwasborn, and what my lousy childhood was
like, and how my parents were occupied and all
before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind
ofcrap, but Idon't feel likegoing into it. J(erome) D(avid) Salinger The Catcher in the Rye, ch.1.
She was cut off fromthe past and therefore did not live in the present. But
suddenly, as she stood close against a pine tree and
breathed in its sharp, bitter scent, a clear space opened to her
childhood, as though a wind had sprung fromthesea,
clearing a mist.It wasnot a memory from the past, it
was the past itself, as alive, as real; and she knew that she
and the child of forty years ago were the same person. D(onald) M(itchell) Thomas TheWhite Hotel, ch.4.
We seem but to linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and
they vanish out of memory ere we learn the language. Henry David Thoreau Journal entry,19 Feb.
Men, indeed, appear to me to act in a very unphilosophical
manner when they try to secure the good conduct of
women by attempting to keep them always in a state
of childhood. Mary also known as Mrs Godwin Wollstonecraft AVindication of the Rights ofWoman, pt.1, ch.2.