While writing a commentary on the recently concluded climate change talks in Paris this morning, I heard a beautiful musical presentation of “Down by the Salley Gardens.” on WQXR, New York City’s classical music station. (The “Salley Gardens” was on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo County, Ireland, where the people cultivated trees to provide roof thatching materials.) The piece is based on a poem by the same name, written by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats.
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
The verse was subsequently set to music by others. And in listening to it this morning while at the same time writing a commentary on Paris and the climate crisis, two thoughts came to mind. One is that in a just and non-violent world every child should be surrounded and enriched by beauty in its myriad of forms. Or to paraphrase and take liberty with the poem of the great poet and visionary William Blake, every child should be “born to sweet delight.”
The other is that if we aren’t quite up to doing that, can we make a minimum commitment to do everything we can to make the world habitable and sustainable for this generation of children and those to come.