Imaginary friends, cops and robbers, make believe—as children, our games, whether with friends or on our own, relied so much on our imaginations (do they as much these days, one wonders, with phones, tablets, and gadgets the chief sources of play and entertainment?) In literature too, Alice’s adventure in wonderland or for that matter through the looking glass, or Dorothy’s trip to Oz (at least in the film version) were made out to be stuff of our character’s imaginations (rather extravagant ones, indeed). A less elaborate scenario, but also of the realm of the imagination is William Brown’s plans in one of the books (I can’t at the moment remember which) to explore a lane in his own village (which only his mother encourages, for who indeed has ever explored the lane before?). One of the stories I recently read, from Daphne du Maurier’s collection, The Breaking Point, also explores a child’s fascination with a pool in the woods, which she imagines has magic (this is one with much darker tones, though). Whether it is letting our imaginations flow based on the books we have read or things we have seen or heard of, our dreams let us transport ourselves to different places, battle dragons or meet fairies, but no matter what or where, they do bring a little magic into mundane daily life.
Eleanor Farjeon paints a pleasant picture of one such piece of a child’s imagination, a rather simple one, sparked off by the image the child sees when she wakes up one morning, in her poem A Morning Dream. This short—three stanza—poem describes the scene a child wakes up to (every morning) and how she transforms this into something different with her imagination. (The poem incidentally doesn’t tell us whether the child is a boy or girl but the accompanying illustration in the book I have it in has a little girl so that who I ‘imagined’.)
The child wakes up in bed each morning ‘Underneath a skylight… staring up through the window panes’. The view is dim and dingy because of the rain but there is a wavy tree, a greeny branch, beyond which is the blue sky. Observing this scene, the wind perhaps blowing, the child instantly transports herself into a world of her imagining. Now she is no long simply a child in bed looking through her skylight, but on the wreck of a long-forgotten ship, ‘Drowned at the bottom of the sea’. She imagines herself ‘some mariner long-dead’, the sky transformed into green and blue waters flowing above her, the leafy branches (blowing in the wind) transformed to living weeds, and leaves to floating fish. While sparrows too, ‘swim’ in the air.
This is a simple poem merely describing a scene a little child wakes up to, but what I loved about it is how it shows us the transformation of an ordinary everyday scene into the stuff of dreams and magic—one literally sees the ordinary change into the extraordinary, magic perhaps being easier to achieve than one would think. Waking up in the cabin of a wrecked ship, watching the sea flow by over you, the weeds flapping, ‘fish’ swimming is surely a far more exciting way to start the day than simply in one’s bed, don’t you think?
Reading this also left me wondering about childhood today; is imagination lost somewhere amidst phones and computers and TVs with their loud sounds and images? And with them, is the magic it brought into life lost too?
Once again, I couldn’t find the poem anywhere online to link so am typing it out:
Underneath a skylight I
In my bed o’mornings lie,
Staring up through window-panes,
Made dim by unremembered rains
And always see above my face
A wavy tree in dingy space
Beyond the greeny branch up there
Flows the deep and clear blue air
So that I almost seem to be
Drowned at the bottom of the sea
Within the cabin of a ship
Wrecked on a long-forgotten trip
And I who lie so still abed
Might be some mariner long-dead
While green and blue above me flow,
And living weeds wave to and fro,
And withered leaves like fishes skim
The streams of air where sparrows swim.--Eleanor Farjeon (source: Silver Bells, vol. IV)
Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965) was an English author of children’s stories and plays, poems, biography, history and also satire. (More on wikipedia here)