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Child Poems

Word count: 754

by Darius Milhaud (1892 - 1974)

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1. When and why

When I [bring to you colour'd]1 toys, my child,
I understand why there is such a play of colours 
On clouds, on water, and why flow'rs are painted in tints:
When I give colour'd toys to you, my child.

When I sing to make you dance,
[I truly know why there is]2 music in leaves,
And why waves send their chorus of voices
To the heart of the listening earth:
When I sing to make you dance.3

When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands,
I know why there is honey in the cup of the flower
And why fruits are secretly filled with sweet juice:
When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands.

When I kiss your face to make you smile, my darling, 
I surely understand what pleasure streams 
from the sky in morning light, and what delight 
that is that is which the summer breeze 
brings to my body - when I kiss you to make you smile.

View original text (without footnotes)
Note: in Gitanjali, the poem has no title; but in The Crescent Moon, its title is "When and why"
1 Carpenter: "bring you coloured"
2 Trotta: "I know why there's"
3 Trotta adds "We are free", and in the last repeat, "We are one."

2. Defamation

Why are those tears in your eyes, my child?

How horrid of them to be always scolding you for nothing.

You have stained your fingers and face with ink while writing --
Is that why they call you dirty?

O, fie! Would they dare to call the full moon dirty
because it has smudged its face with ink?

For every little trifle they blame you, my child.
They are ready to find fault for nothing.

You tore your clothes while playing --
Is that why they call you untidy?

O, fie! What would they call an autumn morning
that smiles through its ragged clouds?

Take no heed of what they say to you, my child.

Take no heed of what they say to you, my child.

They make a long list of your [misdeeds]1.
Everybody knows how you love sweet things --
Is that why they call you greedy?

O, fie! What [then]2 would they call us who love you?

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Gompel: "misdeeds, my child."
2 omitted by Gompel.

3. Paper boats

Day by day I float my paper boats 
one by one down the running stream.

In big black letters I write my name on them 
and the name of the village where I live.

I hope that someone in some strange land 
will find them and know who I am.

I load my little boats with shiuli flowers 
from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn 
will be carried safely to land in the night.

I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky 
and see the little clouds setting their white bulging sails.

I know not what playmate of mine in the sky 
sends them down the air to race with my boats!

When night comes I bury my face in my arms 
and dream that my paper boats float on and on 
under the midnight stars.

The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, 
and the lading is their baskets full of dreams.

4. Sympathy

If I were only a little puppy, 
not your baby, mother dear, 
would you say "No" to me 
if I tried to eat from your dish?

Would you drive me off, saying to me, 
"Get away, you naughty little puppy?"

Then go, mother, go! I will never come to you
when you call me, and never let you feed me any more.

If I were only a little green parrot, 
and not your baby, mother dear, 
would you keep me chained lest I should fly away?

Would you shake your finger at me and say, 
"What an ungrateful wretch of a bird! 
It is gnawing at its chain day and night?"

Then, go, mother, go! I will run away into the woods;
I will never let you take me in your arms again.

5. The gift

I want to give you something, my child,
for we are drifting in the stream of the world.

Our lives will be carried apart, 
and our love forgotten.

But I am not so foolish as to hope 
that I could buy your heart with my gifts.

Young is your life, your path long, 
and you drink the love we bring you at one draught 
and turn and run away from us.

You have your play and your playmates. 
What harm is there if you have no time 
or thought for us.

We, indeed, have leisure enough in old age 
to count the days that are past, 
to cherish in our hearts what our hands have lost for ever.

The river runs swift with a song, 
breaking through all barriers. 
But the mountain stays and remembers, 
and follows her with his love.

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