Introduction and Welcome

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

John Constable - Mill at Gillingham, Dorset, Felix Mendelssohn - Piano Concerto in A Minor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - The Cry of the Children

This painting by John Constable has a lot of appealing features.  There are animals throughout the painting, a couple of inconspicuous people and as always I'm drawn to water.  I'd like to sit on the bank and dangle my feet in the water and draw in my nature notebook. You can almost hear the water as it flows over the water wheel and splashes into the pool.

Mill at Gillingham, Dorset

 For more paintings - John Constable the Complete Works.

Piano Concerto in A Minor was written by Felix Mendelssohn when he was just 13 years old! I think it's lovely!  Hope you enjoy it, too.  

A link to the Best of Mendelssohn

I found this biographical sketch of the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning interesting and enlightening.  Her poems and this biography are probably more interesting for adults and older students, but if you understand her life, you can better share it with your children.

And here is a wonderful biographical sketch of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her poetry!  Actually it is a chapter from the book A Day With Great Poets, an audio version on Librivox.  Scroll down to chapter 6.  It is a wonderful recounting of a day in her life with bits of her beautiful poetry entwined in the recounting.
Lovely!!  It looks like you could also click into an e-text which I imagine could be printed if you prefer that, but I enjoyed this audio version very much!  

This poem makes me ache....It is reminiscent of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield or Oliver Twist whose childhoods were wrenched away in forced labor and abuse.  Makes me appreciate the wonderful free childhood we and our children have been blessed to enjoy!

The Cry of the Children

"Pheu pheu, ti prosderkesthe m ommasin, tekna;"
[[Alas, alas, why do you gaze at me with your eyes, my children.]]—Medea.
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
      Ere the sorrow comes with years ?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, —
      And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ;
   The young birds are chirping in the nest ;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows ;
   The young flowers are blowing toward the west—
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      They are weeping bitterly !
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
      In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
      Why their tears are falling so ?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
      Which is lost in Long Ago —
The old tree is leafless in the forest —
   The old year is ending in the frost —
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest —
   The old hope is hardest to be lost :
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
      In our happy Fatherland ?

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
      And their looks are sad to see,
For the man's grief abhorrent, draws and presses
      Down the cheeks of infancy —
"Your old earth," they say, "is very dreary;"
   "Our young feet," they say, "are very weak !"
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary—
   Our grave-rest is very far to seek !
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children,
      For the outside earth is cold —
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,
      And the graves are for the old !"

"True," say the children, "it may happen
      That we die before our time !
Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen
      Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her —
   Was no room for any work in the close clay :
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her,
   Crying, 'Get up, little Alice ! it is day.'
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,
   With your ear down, little Alice never cries ;
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
   For the smile has time for growing in her eyes ,—
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in
      The shroud, by the kirk-chime !
It is good when it happens," say the children,
      "That we die before our time !"

Alas, the wretched children ! they are seeking
      Death in life, as best to have !
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
      With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city —
   Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do —
Pluck you handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty
   Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through !
But they answer, " Are your cowslips of the meadows
      Like our weeds anear the mine ?
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,
      From your pleasures fair and fine!

"For oh," say the children, "we are weary,
      And we cannot run or leap —
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
      To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping —
   We fall upon our faces, trying to go ;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
   The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
      Through the coal-dark, underground —
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
      In the factories, round and round.

"For all day, the wheels are droning, turning, —
      Their wind comes in our faces, —
Till our hearts turn, — our heads, with pulses burning,
      And the walls turn in their places
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling —
   Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall, —
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling —
   All are turning, all the day, and we with all ! —
And all day, the iron wheels are droning ;
      And sometimes we could pray,
'O ye wheels,' (breaking out in a mad moaning)
      'Stop ! be silent for to-day ! ' "

Ay ! be silent ! Let them hear each other breathing
      For a moment, mouth to mouth —
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing
      Of their tender human youth !
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
   Is not all the life God fashions or reveals —
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
   That they live in you, or under you, O wheels ! —
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,
      As if Fate in each were stark ;
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,
      Spin on blindly in the dark.

Now tell the poor young children, O my brothers,
      To look up to Him and pray —
So the blessed One, who blesseth all the others,
      Will bless them another day.
They answer, " Who is God that He should hear us,
   While the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred ?
When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us
   Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word !
And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)
      Strangers speaking at the door :
Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him,
      Hears our weeping any more ?

" Two words, indeed, of praying we remember ;
      And at midnight's hour of harm, —
'Our Father,' looking upward in the chamber,
      We say softly for a charm.
We know no other words, except 'Our Father,'
   And we think that, in some pause of angels' song,
God may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,
   And hold both within His right hand which is strong.
'Our Father !' If He heard us, He would surely
      (For they call Him good and mild)
Answer, smiling down the steep world very purely,
      'Come and rest with me, my child.'

"But, no !" say the children, weeping faster,
      " He is speechless as a stone ;
And they tell us, of His image is the master
      Who commands us to work on.
Go to ! " say the children,—"up in Heaven,
   Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find !
Do not mock us ; grief has made us unbelieving —
   We look up for God, but tears have made us blind."
Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving,
      O my brothers, what ye preach ?
For God's possible is taught by His world's loving —
      And the children doubt of each.

And well may the children weep before you ;
      They are weary ere they run ;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
      Which is brighter than the sun :
They know the grief of man, without its wisdom ;
   They sink in the despair, without its calm —
Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom, —
   Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm, —
Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly
      No dear remembrance keep,—
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly :
      Let them weep ! let them weep !

They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,
      And their look is dread to see,
For they think you see their angels in their places,
      With eyes meant for Deity ;—
"How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation,
   Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart, —
Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
   And tread onward to your throne amid the mart ?
Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants,
      And your purple shews your path ;
But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence
      Than the strong man in his wrath !"


  1. I'm looking forward to discussing this painting and listening to the Mendelssohn with my children tomorrow.

    Also, just so you know, I linked to your site in my latest blog post about homeschooling:

    1. Dear Sarah
      thanks for taking the time to comment. it's always encouraging to hear from readers and know that people are using this blog. I popped over to your blog and really enjoyed the article. I like the idea of having our children take ownership of the direction of their education . I have done this on an informal basis but I like the idea of having a meeting time and writing down their thoughts. I think I'll try it. Thanks.
      I tried to subscribe to your blog but FeedBurner said the feed does not have subscriptions by email enabled... I'll try again later. Patti

    2. Hi Patti,
      How strange about Feedburner... did you try to subscribe using the link in the top right on the sidebar? I just tried it as an experiment and it seemed to work.

    3. Dear Sarah
      I think maybe it was because of our security program. I tried again later and it went through. I'm looking forward to your future posts. Blessings Patti

    4. Hi Patti,
      I have a question for you: do you know of any specific books that can serve as a "spine" for art and/or music history? I have been using Story of the World for the last few years; while my children do love it, I myself think that it focuses too much on wars/conquests/royal squabbles as it gets on towards to modern history.

      Now that I have been inspired by your blog to incorporate more art and music into our schooling, I am wondering if there is another book I could use as a jumping-off place that would give a roughly chronological history of those subjects (and perhaps inventions as well) that would still be accessible and enjoyable for my children to read and look at.

      No worries if you don't know of a book to recommend, but just thought I'd ask...