"Songs of a Little Child's Day"


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Preface - E. Poulsson
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In preparing the verses for this book of songs, the author has kept particularly in mind children rather younger than those for whom most song books are prepared, although some songs are included which are beyond the nursery child except as he would join with older children in singing them; and a few are supplied which are intended for his mother to sing to him.

The verses are concerned with many subjects, for the little child’s interest and imagination are ready to range earth-wide and heaven-high. In the main the subjects are those which might present themselves to him in the course of his long happy day, - home love and care, budding childish ideals, weather mysteries, play indoors and out with plants and animals and with child companions.

any facts and activities which wear a prosaic aspect to our vision (dulled as it is by familiarity) show themselves to the little child as the marvels that they really are. “In this the same sun that shines over Carbrook?” asked a four-year-old, when away from his native village. “Sometimes the big waves come softly and say ‘Hush!’ to the little waves,” remarked a child who spent his summers by the sea.

“I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid,”

said the child-hearted man Stevenson, as many an ordinary child has said and will say as long as the wind blows. Bird and beast, garden flower and shell from the sea, all are wonders that thrill the little child who is just discovering them as if they were newly created for him. He should not only see them, play with them, and learn about them, but should also sing of them. The song fixes them in his thought and expresses the feelings for which he, unaided, would have no fitting expression.

Specific account has not been taken of the city environment; for even in the city the child comes in contact with the great universal facts and things, and with elements or examples by which he can reach out toward those far removed. He has family and home; the wind blows through city streets; the sun shines, and rain and snow fall. The park interprets the country; city lights, the lighthouse; doves and sparrows, the feathered kingdom. Horses, dogs and the ubiquitous pussy-cat bring other four-footed creatures more or less into cognizance. All these known things are to the child’s constructive imagination like clay figures with which it busies itself, stretching out here and pinching in there, as it were, and adding this and that characteristic (learned from picture or story) to create the new and unknown thing. What though the resultant mental image is but a roughly shaped figure? It is all ready for corrections and finishing touches, and these will be the more quickly made because the mind is alertly eager to compare its own creation with reality and to modify it accordingly.

What the character of the words, the language of a young child’s song should be, is quite clear in the minds of many persons who try to initiate little children into the joyous world of song. The comparatively small supply of exactly such songs as are desired is owing to the difficulties encountered by the verse writers in keeping within the restrictions imposed by the capacity of the young child and at the same time making the song a song, with some degree of spontaneity and grace. Familiar words and a direct mode of expression must predominate if the thought is to be intelligible to the child singer. Yet the language must be somewhat above childish vernacular or badly prosaic statement, and may well include some unfamiliar words; for the child needs to extend his vocabulary and otherwise improve his language. The song-rhyme or poem which he learns by heart and repeats often is one of the surest and pleasantest means to this end.

The games included under “Playtime” are not distinctively kindergarten games but are nevertheless of a useful kind for the kindergarten as well as for the home. Such simple movement plays and dances may, when rightly played, exert developing power over more than the physical nature and the rhythmic sense to which they so obviously minister. The strengthening and control of will goes on with the strengthening and control of the muscles; the idea of subjection to law is prepared for by keeping the rules of the game; awaiting one’s turn cultivates patience and altruism; and adjusting the individual’s hap-hazard motions to the regulated rhythmic motion of a partner or the whole company impresses the spirit with the pleasurableness of harmonious action.

The music for child songs, like the verses, has its Scylla and Charybdis, - the child’s small powers and the requirements of musical art. The writer of the words in Songs of a Little Child’s Day gratefully acknowledges the debt her words will owe to the music which goes forth with them, their loyal companion,--a companion that is in close sympathy with their every mood, heightening the joy, deepening the thoughtfulness and adding grace. It will help, as only child music of high quality can, to carry the meaning of the songs into the little singer’s heart, and will enable him to re-express that meaning freely in childlike tuneful melodies.

Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 1910

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