|Image by Rebeka Choat|
The Swing of Poetry: Musings on Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing"
How do you like to go up in a swing,
by Rebeka Choat
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside ---
Till I look down on the garden green,Down on the roof so brown ---
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
It’s such a summer poem: light and carefree, flying effortlessly into the blue, a simple child-like invitation to be wholeheartedly in the moment. But this moment, me standing here pushing my little girl on a swing, melts into other moments and it’s my seven-year-old self soaring, hair streaming, Daddy pushing me, Mama saying the words somewhere in the background. That still-small Becka was chubby and slow and clumsy on the ground, already always the last to be picked for any team sport, but oh! on a swing I could fly!
I’ve only ever been thin during one brief, almost-anorexic period of my life. I’m still invariably slower than whomever I’m walking with, and I’ve rarely been accused of being graceful. But oh! words give me wings! Poetry lifts me up in the air and over the wall/Till I can see so wide – see woods on a snowy evening, and Addison’s Walk, and Innisfree, and Camelot, and Hatley St. George. And it shows me familiar things from a new perspective – Till I look down on the garden green, down on the roof so brown – a pitchfork, a certain slant of light on winter afternoons, an old tree growing in the place that is my own place. It reminds me to take time to enjoy simple, pleasant things; and when I come back – up in the air and down – I’m relaxed and reinvigorated, ready to look at the world with fresh eyes.