Editor’s Note. In the Armitt Museum, one may request to see an overstuffed box containing a collection of handwritten documents penned by Charlotte Mason. Some of the documents are obviously rough drafts, hastily written and with many corrections. Among these pages are the early drafts for Mason’s seventh volume of The Saviour of the World, written sometime after 1914. But some of the pages are not at all rough drafts. One set is written in beautiful cursive, inscribed with a fountain pen. These pages are no doubt final drafts, ready to be sent to a publisher.
The pages are entitled “Childhood’s Estate, and other Poems, by Charlotte Mason.” The set includes a preface, which calls it “a little book.” I have examined the pages and held them in my hand. They are not like the very old documents in the archive, which show the wear of time. Time has been gentle with this little book. It looks as fresh as the letters Mason wrote in the final few years of her life.
When did Mason write this little book? I don’t know. I can only guess it was in the last decade of her life, around the time she was working on the seventh poetry volume. Why didn’t she send it to the publisher? Perhaps she was waiting for the right moment? Perhaps she did not think a publisher would want to produce it?
I can imagine Mason filing these pages away, thinking someday she would find a way to release them to the public. Perhaps in her final days she resigned herself to the idea that they would never be shared. But God has a way of bringing our hopes and dreams to life. Through a miracle of providence, the careful study of Linda Fern and Antonella Greco, and the miracle of the Internet, this little book is now finally published.
With joy and delight I now present, published for the very first time, “Childhood’s Estate,” by Charlotte Mason. Some beautiful truths are meant to be shared.
Childhood’s Estate, and other Poems
By Charlotte Mason
It appears to the Writer that the general tendency of religious thought has been to obscure the light of Divine Teaching that falls upon the peculiar estate of Childhood,—to depreciate that which Christ has exalted; an error which has a mischievous affect upon education; and also tends to dull the apprehension of Grown-up people to certain Teachings as to their own condition.
The following Verses attempt to bring out a point here and there of the luminous Teaching, without venturing to deal with the subject in a systematic way. The ‘verse’ form has been adopted for the sake of brevity; and also because it is more apt for the expression of tentative theories of life than “premeditated prose”. May the Writer venture to vindicate this function of Verse which does not affect to be of the nature of Poetry!
In the Kingdom
That His teaching might be clear upon this great subject; and as though the Lord had foreseen that “one of these little ones” would be taken to mean something else than a little natural child like any in the streets of Jerusalem,—
Jesus called a little child unto him and set him in the midst of them, and said,
“Verily I say unto you except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“These little ones which believe in Me.
“Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believed in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Offend not; despise not; hinder not; herein is the whole of education.
Unto us a Child is born
Helpless, that is not his care;
A burden, she is strong to bear;
Fragile, will not she forefend?
Ailing—soft her love shall tend.—
Jesus, Saviour, Son of man
Who camest, Infant of a span;
Was Mary thy one Mother mild,
Or art Thou ever born a Child?—
My trembling heart doth in one burn;
There, perchance, shall I discern,
Tho’ the state be all defiled,
The tender form of Christ; the Child.
Is there One, a little One,
Who lieth sweetly as a Son,
All His meat, the Father’s grace,
All His joy, the Father’s face;
Rueing not His feeble state,
Fearing not the ills that wait,
Safe, nor asking why, nor how—
Jesus then, not I, but Thou!
Other fearsome inmates there,
Evil dragons, giant care;—
Hope, joyous, sees them led in thrall
This “Little One” shall rule them all!
A grove where birds, sofreighted of their joy
They scarce can fly, do sit and sing, and sing,
Lab’ring and throbbing to tell out the whole,
O Mother, is my heart! Now is the joy
That my bliss comes to many, for the world
Is full of mothers;—and again, sure I
Am blessèd amongst women! No, not one,
Not even thou, my Mother, comprehend’st!
Sure Heaven were drain’d were many cups so fill’d!
Thy joy may run for aye ere it exceed
The measure of thy treasure;
Thou hast gotten a Man from the Lord.
Therein the grace, the glory! I put the babe
Apart and say, A sinful woman, I,
O Lord! And then, kiss, rev’rent, the wee hand
Of him who knows the Father more than I.
But not in outer darkness, of my Babe
Am I, his Mother, left—strangely brought in,
(Is it of grace to him?) th’abounding life
Of the kingdom breaks on me, an infinite
Of love, and rest, and joy, and Father’s care;
While, Holiness to th’ Lord, is on the brow
Of every thought that enters.
At the Cradle
I sat by my sleeping Babe,
At the feet; sat low of my Boy,
Much pond’ring the high-born air he wore,
As of native claim on joy.
Sure not of his father or me
Was he made thus free of the earth;—
Were we at large!—but the hours confine,—
Knows he a loftier birth?
‘Great is the mystery,’ yea—
How little, O Babe, art thou mine!
A halo surrounds and divides thee,
Living Words about thee shine!
All faith and hid knowlege, thine—
My little one, how can it be?
When sing’st thou those perfect praises—
The Father, O where dost see?
Thy Guardian waiteth ever
On the face of our God for light.—
A little Son, how high thy estate!
Thy Mother, alas, her plight!
I slept: As one bends to waken
A harp, so gave voice to my pain
The angel in ward; Wherefore troublest?
Thy boy’s state, is’t not all gain?
Yea! All my breath is thanksgiving,
This heart lives in song for the grace;
Yet, at moments a pang, sure not envy?
Comes with the light on his face!
To thine angel state ’twere easy
To win fullest thought of the Lord;
Faith to us, the town waft of storms; these—
‘Believe they on Me,’ His Word!
Say, thou! These Simple, how search they
The mysteries of things unseen?
By what wit can they know to trust Him
Whose Name scarce lisp they, Tween?
Nay, Mother, thy heart-best answers;
Is there any in all th’ wide land
So utterly trusts thee and worships,
So keepeth him in thine hand,
As the babe who not yet calls thee,
Nor knows any name for his joy?
Thus, serene in the hand of the King,
The simple soul of thy boy!
As they are wariest—guides who most have met—
Mis-chance themselves, thy Mother’s slips may yet
Shew thy feet, Daughter, places to eschew.
Ah, sweet the Mother-walk, but perilous!
And flowers do cheer the progress hazardous,
Tho’ heedless pilgrims chance on bitter rue!
But thou, my daughter, meekly glad, had ta’en
A man from th’ Lord: thy joy hath wholesome pain
Of diffidence—thy welfare’s pledge, for here,
Danger avoids, assurance keeps, in fear.
Then spread thy soul ‘fore Heaven, as April earth,
Waiting the full of counsel; nor in vain—
Who hath so graced thee to a blessed birth
Will not His wisdom waterings restrain!
‘Greatest in the Kingdom’
Weigh his estate and thine: accustom’d, he,
To all sweet courtly usage that obtains
Where dwells the King. How, with thine utmost pains,
Cans’t thou produce what shall full worthy be?
One, ‘greatest in the kingdom’ is with thee,
Whose being yet discerns the Father’s face,
And, thence replenish’d, flows with constant grace:
Take fearful heed lest he despised be!
Order thy goings softly, as before
A Prince; nor let thee out, unmannerly,
In thy rude moods and irritable: more,
Beware lest round him wind of words rave free.
Refrain thee: see thy speech be sweet and rare:
Thy ways, consider’d; and thine aspect, fair.
Innocence hath no problem
For him who thinks his soul a fortress, fed
From without at his will; and when he is
Alone with himself, inviolable; as he,
Nor helped, nor let; doth make or mar himself,
So is he innocent, unmade, unmarr’d,
Ere habit of false thinking or misdeed
Hath fitted to his shape. But the poor man—
The haunted soul—who has no innermost
But when he comes, lo, Sin is sitting there!
Who hates, and yet inclines, and, desperate,
Cleaveth to Grace to save him from the Thing.
Is it himself?—that daunts him; nor hath where
T’abide; but when of tears and crying, brought
Into the place of peace where is the King,
He, thinking to remain doth let him out
To dwell at ease, all-sudden finds himself
In outer darkness, under other rule;
Then, painful winneth yet again to where
He was before, but not t’abide—a door,
That moves and moves yet wins no step—ah, he
Poor Man, looks on the face of a little child
With awful wonder as on a mystery.
The deepest and most gracious God doth keep!
Our thoughts are for him; his dear weal the end
Our cares pursue: wherein shall love offend?
Offenceless love, that Duty doth intend.
Recal when soul of Law convinc’d did rise
For baby trespass to thy startled sight;
How, shamed, the wee trangressor sunk his eyes,
Knowing, beyond thy knowledge, of the right,
And meek neath thy chastisement. Keep him now
Under the Law as then, that, as he grows,
‘One followeth Deed in course,’ the rule he knows
His times t’interpret. And Law compell’d be thou,
Nor drop some heedless trespass in his way
That, stumbling over, his weak knees shall fail.
Offence shall come! but do not thou betray
His soul to sin. Yet, oh, without the pale
Of love’s sweet use no banishment accord
For any sake—else those malign’st thy Lord!