In this poem, the poet addresses a child and asks him to tell her about the past, the present and the future. The child responds in childlike terms, but his simple words convey deep meanings about what the past, the present and the future are to human beings. The poem is written in three stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme of each stanza is abab.
Table of Contents
Tell me, tell me, smiling child, What the past is like to thee? ‘An Autumn evening soft and mild With a wind that sighs mournfully.’
The poet asks the smiling child to tell her what the past is like to him. The child replies that it is an autumn evening which is soft and mild, with a wind that sighs mournfully. The sad sighing of the wind shows us that there is nostalgia associated with the past. The child looks back happily on this beautiful autumn evening, or the past, but with a sad sigh because he wants to experience it again. So, the beautiful memories of the past make us feel nostalgic.
Tell me, what is the present hour? ‘A green and flowery spray Where a young bird sits gathering its power To mount and fly away.’
This time the poet asks the child to tell her what the present hour is. The child answers that it is a green and flowery branch where a young bird sits, gathering its power to mount and fly away. The green flowery branch suggests that the present is like springtime. The young bird preparing for flight symbolizes how the present leads to the future. The young bird prepares to fly, just as all of us prepare to head towards the future. So, the present is a happy time that leads to the future.
And what is the future, happy one? ‘A sea beneath a cloudless sun; A mighty, glorious, dazzling sea Stretching into infinity.’
The poet lastly asks the happy child what the future is. The child says that it is a sea beneath a cloudless sun. The sea is mighty, glorious, dazzling and stretches into infinity. The infinite sea symbolizes endless opportunities and possibilities. So, the future is exciting and filled with infinite possibilities.
This poem uses childlike and simple terms to explore the complex meanings that different time periods hold for us. It explores our nostalgia for the past, our happiness in the present, and our anticipation for the future.