The Second Coming

July 17, 2009

The choice of this Friday’s poem was inspired by Slouching towards Wellington at Bowalley Road.

It’s The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.

     The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

                – W.B. Yeats –


June 13 in history

June 13, 2009

On June 13:

In 1774 Rhode Island became the first of Britain’s American colonies to ban the importation of slaves.

In 1865 William Butler Yeats  was born.

In 1970 the Beatles’ song The Long and Winding Road  became the Beatles’ last number 1 song.


The Lake Isle of Innisfree

June 12, 2009

It’s William Butler Yeats’ birthday tomorrow which led me to The Lake Isle of Innisfree  for Friday’s poem.

I found it in Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics.

                 The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

          – William Butler Yeats –


Bed sharing endangers babies

December 12, 2008

When Tom stopped breathing in the middle of the night the apnoea matress in his cradle alarmed and woke us.

Because of that we were able to do CPR and call an ambulance and our GP who revived him.  Tom died later that day it but it helped us to know we’d done all we could for him.

Had that happened the night before it could have been very different because, contrary to my usual practice of taking him through to the living room to feed then tucking him back in his cradle, I’d fed him in bed and left him there. So had he stopped breathing I might not have known for hours and I’d have had to live with the knowledge that at best, because of that it would have been too late to try CPR,  and at worst that I might have smothered him.

If he’d died in bed beside me I’d have always wondered if it was my fault. Even though he had a brain disorder and we’d been told a month earlier that he was likely to die soon, there would have been doubts, questions, blame and guilt.

I remembered this when I read that Wellington coroner Gary Evans was conducting inquests  into the deaths of seven babies, including four who had dies while sharing a bed.

Auckland University professor of child health research Evan Mitchell said bedsharing absolutely increased risk of babies dying from SIDS.

Prof Mitchell said the message to not share beds was included in advice to parents on the Ministry of Health website.

“But the message is being delivered very inconsistently,” he said.

“There are a number of breastfeeding advocates … who are recommending bedsharing to improve breastfeeding rates.”

There were several initiatives that provided an alternative to bedsharing.

“At the moment we don’t know of any way of doing bedsharing completely safely — having the cot right up close to the bed so the baby’s in close contact proximity, making breastfeeding easy, must surely be the right way to go.”

Paediatrician Dawn Elder, who has studied unexplained baby deaths in the Wellington region over the last 10 years, also said more information was needed.

“Certainly there is information out there, but there isn’t enough,” she said.

The risk of bed sharing isn’t new.

It’s referred to in the Bible in the story of Solomon and the mothers arguing over whose baby lived and whose died –  1 Kings, 3: 16-22 “. . . Then one night she accidently rolled over on her baby and smothered it . . .”

It was also the subject of a poem by W.B. Yeats more than 100 years ago:

The Ballad of Moll Magee:

Come round me, little childer;
There, don’t fling stones at me
Because I mutter as I go;
But pity Moll Magee.

My man was a poor fisher
With shore lines in the say;
My work was saltin’ herrings
The whole of the long day.

And sometimes from the Saltin’ shed
I scarce could drag my feet,
Under the blessed moonlight,
Along the pebbly street.

I’d always been but weakly,
And my baby was just born;
A neighbour minded her by day,
I minded her till morn.

I lay upon my baby;
Ye little childer dear,
I looked on my cold baby
When the morn grew frosty and clear.

A weary woman sleeps so hard!
My man grew red and pale,
And gave me money, and bade me go
To my own place, Kinsale.

He drove me out and shut the door.
And gave his curse to me;
I went away in silence,
No neighbour could I see.

The windows and the doors were shut,
One star shone faint and green,
The little straws were turnin round
Across the bare boreen.

I went away in silence:
Beyond old Martin’s byre
I saw a kindly neighbour
Blowin’ her mornin’ fire.

She drew from me my story –
My money’s all used up,
And still, with pityin’, scornin’ eye,
She gives me bite and sup.

She says my man will surely come
And fetch me home agin;
But always, as I’m movin’ round,
Without doors or within,

Pilin’ the wood or pilin’ the turf,
Or goin’ to the well,
I’m thinkin’ of my baby
And keenin’ to mysel’.

And Sometimes I am sure she knows
When, openin’ wide His door,
God lights the stats, His candles,
And looks upon the poor.

So now, ye little childer,
Ye won’t fling stones at me;
But gather with your shinin’ looks
And pity Moll Magee.

We’ve come along way since then but the guilt and grief of a parent who smothered their child won’t have changed.

When our children were young there seemed to be much more publicity about cot deaths or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and both the risk factors  to avoid and practices to keep babies safer. But the information doesn’t seem to be as widely available now.                                                         

There are still questions about exactly what causes cot deaths but some of the risk factors are well known and that’s behind the five ways to protect babies which Plunket lists:

  1. a smoke-free pregnancy and household
  2. sleeping on their back
  3. a clear face and head – free from hazards that can lead to suffocation
  4. to be close to parents when asleep (in the same room)
  5. breastfeeding.

Parents share beds with babies for a lot of reasons – it’s normal practice for some cultures, it might be warmer, they might not have anywhere else for the baby to sleep, when they’re exhausted, which is a normal state for new parents and why I had Tom in my bed that one night,  it might be easier but none of those reasons makes it a safe practice.


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