Our family likes to celebrate life’s events with poetry, so when we came home from our newborn daughter’s baptism, our older children each recited a poem on either baptism or new babies. I was pleased to learn that my 8-year-old chose to memorize “Tied Down” by Edgar A. Guest, a favorite poem of mine, and one that I think would quickly become a favorite of many pro-life families if they would ever read it.
Edgar A. Guest, who wrote poetry on a variety of topics, became famous primarily for his poems on family life, particularly his poem which starts, “It takes a heap o’ living in a house to make it home.” His poems, characterized by vibrant rhythm, delightful rhymes, unabashed sentimentality and Christian values, are refreshingly pro-life and pro-family. “Tied Down” is one of the best examples of his pro-life stance. Although he died in 1959, before the Pill became widely available and before abortion was legalized, he must have run into people who considered children more of a burden than a blessing, for he describes one in the opening verse of “Tied Down”:“They tie you down,” a woman said, Whose cheeks should have been flaming red With shame to speak of children so. “When babies come you cannot go In search of pleasure with your friends And all your happy wandering ends.”
The remaining four verses of the poem constitute Guest’s response to this selfish attitude. He does not deny that children bring a measure of self-sacrifice; he admits that“They tie you down . . . To nights of watching and to fears Sometimes they tie you down to tears”
but, he contends, children“. . . repay you with a smile And make your trouble all worth while. They tie you fast to chubby feet, And cheeks of pink and kisses sweet.”
He even claims that children draw us closer to the love of God and that the happiest people in the world are those who are “tied down” by children.
Guest wrote numerous other poems celebrating the joys and cares of parenthood, including “Weaning the Baby,” “The First Step,” “Sleeping Child,” and “Whooping Cough.” As a mother, I find his simple, unsophisticated insights wise and true to life. I can relate to Guest’s anguish over his children’s illnesses, his annoyance over their mischief, and his tender joy at tucking them in at night after they’ve fallen asleep. Paging through a collection of his work, I was surprised and touched that he devoted an entire poem to that often forgotten, but very emotional, time in a mother’s life when she weans her child. Furthermore, in “What a Baby Costs” and “The Choice,” as in “Tied Down,” he directly discusses whether children are worth the trouble they cause, and his answer is a resounding, emphatic and uncompromising yes!
Catholic families would benefit from rediscovering this troubadour of life. Parents will be refreshed to find their own domestic ups and downs described with such gentle humor and affection; children will enjoy memorizing the rolling cadences of poems like “Dirty Hands” and “Being Brave at Night” which prove Guest understood a child’s mentality and feelings; and the whole family will be enriched and inspired by the poignant tributes to life, to virtue and to family, that were written by this man who preferred to be“Tied down to dancing eyes and charms, Held fast by chubby, dimpled arms, The fettered slave of girl and boy, And win from them earth’s finest joy.”