Friday, November 10, 2006

Chesterton on Picture Books

This is the sort of book we like
(For you and I are very small)
With pictures stuck in anyhow
And hardly any words at all.

You will not understand a word
Of all the words, including mine;
Never you trouble; you can see --
And all directness is divine.

Stand up and keep your childishness.
Read all the pedants' screeds and strictures.
But don't believe in anything
That can't be told in coloured pictures.
-- G.K. Chesterton

I found this little gem of a poem ages ago. It's quoted in A Time to Read: Good Books for Growing Readers by Mary Ruth K. Wilkinson and Heidi Wilkinson Teel (Regent College Publishing). They don't note what Chesterton book it comes from, and I've not been able to find any attribution online.

I love this poem. It seems so simple on first reading, but stands up to repeated readings and repeated peeling back of layers. It also has the added bonus of one line that challenged me to look up three words (pedant, screeds and strictures). I think that must be a record. I thought I understood the line pretty well from context, and I did, but looking those words up was enlightening nonetheless.

It makes me think not only of picture books, but of stained glass windows...

I hope I will always be of good courage when it comes to standing up and keeping my childishness.


Erin said...

Wonderful poem! And you're right, those three words do give one pause... I'm always a fan of embracing childishness!

Beth said...

Me too! I have a feeling that may be one big reason you and I have hit it off so well in "cyberspace" -- we're likeminded when it comes to being childlike! ;-)