Friday, March 01, 2013

The Jumping Boy

Our son Aneirin (Aneirin Henry Wagstaff Hamilton, if you must know) is one year old today, but he has already proved himself something of a party animal.

Back in January Skyler and I travelled to an old-fashioned, slightly decrepit beach resort on an obscure part of the Northland coast, along with a dozen other young couples we met on our antenatal course and have since befriended. We all had babies all nearing one, so we decided to throw a collective birthday bash for them at the little seaside colony. It was the loudest party I'd been to since I was an eighteen year-old living in Papakura, where Ozzy Osborne and Led Zep are regarded as cultural monuments.

We held another shindig for Aneirin in the Auckland Domain, that bucolic legacy of imperialist war, a few days before leaving for Tonga. Family members and friends keen to give the little lad a kiss and give us a few parting words - to warn us about the food that is sold in Nuku'alofa's main market, or ask us curiously whether the 'Tongese' still included any 'uncontacted tribes' protected by 'impenetrable jungle', or to enquire about whether an archaeologist/psychologist/poet/linguist would be welcome to drop by 'Atenisi campus and give a lecture or two (our answer, of course, was always 'yes', and we're looking forward to distinguished writer-scholars Murray Edmond and Richard Von Sturmer dropping anchor at 'Atenisi later this semester).

Now we've decided to mark Aneirin's official birthday by hiring a car and heading for one of the shelves of sand on Tongatapu's coast. Thanks to everybody who gave him presents at the Domain, or sent gifts through the post to Nuku'alofa.

I remember asking Brett Cross, whose daughter is eight months or so older than Aneirin, whether the first year of parenthood went fast or slow. "It passes very quickly - and, sometimes, very, very, slowly" Brett replied. I know what he meant. Anybody who doubts the claims of philosophers like Bergson and Heidegger that time is a partly subjective thing, and can flow hot or cold depending on the exhaustion or exhilaration of the individual human consciousness, simply hasn't experienced parenthood.

Here's Geoffrey Hill, my favourite living English-language poet, saluting childhood from the distance of old age:

The Jumping Boy


Here is the jumping boy, the boy
who jumps as I speak.

He is at home on the king's highway,
in call of the tall house, its blind
gable end, the trees - I know this place...


He leaps because he has serious
joy in leaping. The girl's

eyes no way allowed for, or else
she is close in convert and we
are to know that, not knowing how.

I'll bet she worships his plebeian
bullet head, Hermes' winged
plimsolls, the cracked toy tin hat

held on by elastic. His is winning
a momentous and just war
with gravity.


This may be levitation. I
could do that. Give my remembrance
to his new body. These episodes occur.


Jump away, jumping boy; the boy I was
shouts go.


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