Tristram of Lyonesse and Other Poems

A Child’s Thanks

Algernon Charles Swinburne

HOW low soe’er men rank us,
    How high soe’er we win,
The children far above us
Dwell, and they deign to love us,
With lovelier love than ours,
And smiles more sweet than flowers;
As though the sun should thank us
    For letting light come in.

With too divine complaisance,
    Whose grace misleads them thus,
Being gods, in heavenly blindness
They call our worship kindness,
Our pebble-gift a gem:
They think us good to them,
Whose glance, whose breath, whose presence,
    Are gifts too good for us.

The poet high and hoary
    Of meres that mountains bind
Felt his great heart more often
Yearn, and its proud strength soften
From stern to tenderer mood,
At thought of gratitude
Shown than of song or story
    He heard of hearts unkind.

But with what words for token
    And what adoring tears
Of reverence risen to passion,
In what glad prostrate fashion
Of spirit and soul subdued,
May man show gratitude
For thanks of children spoken
    That hover in his ears?

The angels laugh, your brothers,
    Child, hearing you thank me,
With eyes whence night grows sunny,
And touch of lips like honey,
And words like honey-dew:
But how shall I thank you?
For gifts above all others
    What guerdon-gift may be?

What wealth of words caressing,
    What choice of songs found best,
Would seem not as derision,
Found vain beside the vision
And glory from above
Shown in a child’s heart’s love?
His part in life is blessing;
    Ours, only to be blest.

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