How the Leaves Came Down
by Susan Coolidge
"I'll tell you how the leaves came down,"
The great tree to his children said,
"You're getting sleepy, Yellow and Brown,
Yes, very sleepy, little Red.
It is quite time to go to bed."
"Ah!" begged each silly, pouting leaf,
"Let us a little longer stay;
Dear Father Tree, behold our grief;
Tis such a very pleasant day
We do not want to go away."
So, for just one more merry day
To the great tree the leaflets clung,
Frolicked and danced, and had their way,
Upon the autumn breezes swung,
Whispering all their sports among,--
"Perhaps the great tree will forget,
And let us stay until the spring,
If we all beg, and coax, and fret."
But the great tree did no such thing;
He smiled to hear their whispering.
"Come, children, all to bed," he cried;
And ere the leaves could urge their prayer,
He shook his head, and far and wide,
Fluttering and rustling everywhere,
Down sped the leaflets through the air.
I saw them; on the ground they lay,
Golden and red, a huddled swarm,
Waiting till one from far away,
White bedclothes heaped upon her arm,
Should come to wrap them safe and warm.
The great bare tree looked down and smiled,
"Good-night, dear little leaves," he said.
And from below each sleepy child
Replied, "Good-night," and murmured,
"It is so nice to go to bed!"
If there’s one thing I love most, it is trees. Well, and cats. And if I mention cats, I must mention reading, too. I think that should do.
Me in ten years
As a connoisseur of the children’s poem, “How the Leaves Came Down” is truly one of my favorites. It takes place in a magical setting: nature. To make it even better, the Tree, which is personified and anthropomorphized, is a male. How often does that happen? It seems this occurrence is not common in nature. (Or maybe I’m just too hung up on Grandmother Willow being the spiritual guide for the *first half of my life).
I must applaud Coolidge for the perfect balance of quotation and narration. Her “call and response” storytelling makes for a great read aloud. I also love the intimacy between the human and the Tree. It is never needed or explained how the human knows the inner workings of the Tree and his children. What a breath of fresh air for a suffocating city dweller like myself.
I enjoy how a euphemism is used for death in the poem. After all, death and sleep are brothers. So are the leaves just temporarily dying? Like sleeping? What I love most about it is that the leaves will come back, eventually. The human also makes caution of this by calling snow “warm bedclothes.”The marriage of irony and juxtaposition in the verses only shed light on the Tree’s mercy. His children (the leaves) want to stay because they are enjoying themselves—but the Tree knows better. He selflessly lets them rest while he takes on the harsh weather, which he dares not call it such.
There is a sheet of leaves climbing up the backyard fence of my curious 1920's house. They are sleeping now, under a white blanket, but as the Tree promised, will be back. How wonderful to love a thing that comes back.
Until next week,