When I was eighteen I worked as a nanny. My charge was a beautiful little girl aged two and a half. I loved that job. Every day was unique. Every day was a new adventure. She was a bright, vivacious little girl and her joie de vivre was infectious. We would spend the days playing, making up games and stories, painting, baking, walking in the park. It was the happiest time of my life. There is nothing purer than a baby, nothing more delightful than a toddler. You are pulled into their world. You share every new and wonderful and exciting experience and sometimes you have to share their pain. You are rejuvenated by them. So how then could anyone do something like this?
I cannot have children and, given my various issues, maybe that’s a good thing. And I know that is no one’s fault but my own. Starving yourself doesn’t do much for your reproductive capacity and I think you have to have this thing called ‘sex’ and that scares me so I’m not asking for sympathy, just stating a fact. It still breaks my heart though. I think I would have made the decision not to have children anyway even though it is something I have always yearned for. And I can’t help thinking that maybe more people should make that decision. Having children is not a right, it is a privilege.
As I read about this case just for an instant I found myself hoping that the three people responsible for this baby’s death have a really, really bad time in prison. I don’t like feeling like this and I am wondering if that makes me as bad as them. My mother said, ‘no, it makes you human.’ The identities of the three perpetrators have been revealed and all over the ‘blogosphere’ people are speculating about their fate. The mainstream media have accused these bloggers of ‘encouraging vigilantism’ but their revulsion is natural and perfectly human. They are supposed to feel like this. They are shocked because it is shocking. They are horrified because it is horrific and no amount of supercilious sneering will change that. I am not saying that wishing this trio of killers dead is right, I am saying it is understandable.
Nobby once told me that when the second world war was over, he was in charge of a group of German P.O.Ws who, because they were former SS officers, were kept here until 1949 while they underwent a process of denazification (yes, they actually called it that). He described how one particularly fanatical prisoner deliberately provoked the guards by singing Nazi songs and verbally abusing them. It wasn’t long before one of them snapped. He pulled him off the chair on which he was standing and punched him in the face. He was accused of brutality and put on a charge. Nobby, who was his sergeant, spoke up in his defence saying ‘but they’d do the same to us if they could.’ His commanding officer replied, ‘Well, we are not them.’
Do not permit the incoherence of the moral universe of others to corrupt your own.
Because you are not them. Remember that.
Auguries of Innocence
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer, wand’ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus’d breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov’d by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never be by woman lov’d.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer’s song
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.
The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist’s jealousy.
The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright,
And return’d to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier, arm’d with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.
One mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mock’d in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour’s iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket’s cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.