“He spake of love, such love as spirits feel in worlds whose course is equable and pure: No fears to beat away – no strife to heal, the past unsighed for, and the future sure.”

— William Wordsworth

The following poem is of the Ancient Tamil people of India, written in the first few centuries A.D.1Martin Puchner et al., eds., “The Classical Tamil Lyric” in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume B, Third edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012), 855-856.

Children is a Sangam lyric composed within the Akam sub-genre, poetry that captures a view of the inner life.

Love itself is the great paradox of the Christian life. No matter what happens in this life, it is the incomprehensible love of the Father that conquers all things. Our faith is True, reasonable, and coherent. But Love is greater than these.

We get a glimpse of that kind of love from the Father through our own children, children we interact with or being someone’s child. Without children in the world, we might find it hard to understand the type of Love that surpasses all reason… It is the gift of children, whether our own or others, through which we have an example of what God’s love looks like for us. This is universal and we can see this truth across all time. Thus, the poem below. Enjoy!


Children

Even when a man has earned much

of whatever can be earned,

shared it with many,

even when he is master of great estates,

if he does not have

children

      who patter on their little feet

      stretch tiny hands

      scatter, touch,

      grub with mouths

      and grab with fingers,

      smear rice and ghee

      all over their bodies,

      and overcome reason with love,

all his days

have come to nothing.

By: Pantiyan Arivutai Nampi


The picture of the indented section is of a small child, who is able to steal the heart and teach the value of love. The poem directs the attention of the parent to the child, who “patter[s] on their little feet.” This light sound, compared to the noise of the world, soft and unassuming, might grab an otherwise distracted parent.

The “stretch of tiny fingers’ is a picture of a child reaching out, perhaps as the child’s first steps are taken, or maybe hands that reach out to touch the face of a father. The images include the activities of small children, who “scatter, touch”, and “grub with mouths and grab with fingers,” which would normally be seen as inappropriate behavior, but is cheered on by the parents of a baby.

Further, the poem states that a child might “smear rice and ghee all over their bodies,” an image of a child who is attempting to eat on their own. Such a mess would be seen as intolerable and unreasonable in everyday life, but is adored when the behavior is of an infant. The father, who may look at the world through eyes of reason, learns from his child how to look through the lens of love instead.

Thus, love is messy, unexpected, and irrational, but it is a better value than what the world on its own has to offer.

And since earthly fathers and mothers can understand what it’s like to love like that or to be loved like that, then how much more is God’s love? That is the love of Father for you and me, my friend. For He is Almighty God, certainly – we must never forget; but Beloved Christian, He is also your Father!

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Notes:

  • 1
    Martin Puchner et al., eds., “The Classical Tamil Lyric” in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume B, Third edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012), 855-856.

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