My Little Boy
MY little boy is to go to school.
We can’t keep him at home any longer, says his mother. He himself is glad to go, of course, because he does not know what school is.
I know what it is and I know also that there is no escape for him, that he must go. But I am sick at heart. All that is good within me revolts against the inevitable.
So we go for our last morning walk, along the road where something wonderful has always happened to us. It looks to me as if the trees have crape wound round their tops and the birds sing in a minor key and the people stare at me with earnest and sympathetic eyes.
But my little boy sees nothing. He is only excited at the prospect. He talks and asks questions without stopping. We sit down by the edge of our usual ditch alas, that ditch !
And suddenly my heart triumphs over my understanding. The voice of my clear conscience penetrates through the whole well-trained and harmonious choir which is to give the concert; and it sings its solo in the ears of my little boy :
“I just want to tell you that school is a horrid place,” I say. “You can have no conception of what you will have to put up with there. They will tell you that two and two are four. . . .”
“Mother has taught me that already,” says he, blithely.
“Yes, but that is wrong, you poor wretch!” I cry. “Two and two are never four, or only very seldom. And that’s not all. They will try to make you believe that Teheran is the capital of Persia and that Mont Blanc is 15,781 feet high and you will take them at their word. But I tell you that both Teheran and Persia are nothing at all, an empty sound, a stupid joke. And Mont Blanc is not half as big as the mound in the tallow-chandler’s back-garden. And listen: you will never have any more time to play in the courtyard with Einar. When he shouts to you to come out, you’ll have to sit and read about a lot of horrible old kings who have been dead for hundreds and hundreds of years, if they ever existed at all, which I, for my part, simply don’t believe.”
My little boy does not understand me. But he sees that I am sad and puts his hand in mine :
“Mother says that you must go to school to become a clever boy,” he says. “Mother says that Einar is ever so much too small and stupid to go to school.”
I bow my head and nod and say nothing.
That is past.
And I take him to school and see how he storms up the steps without so much as turning his head to look back at me.
~Carl Ewald, 1909
Translated by Alexander Teixeira De Mattos