"Walking Away" is a poem published in 1962 by Cecil Day-Lewis, former Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. It is an autobiographical poem dedicated to the poet's son Sean. Beginning with a memory of Sean's first football game, it is a meditation on the challenges children must brave on their own in order to grow up and on the pain parents suffer in allowing their children to "walk away" and face those challenges on their own.
It is eighteen ...
... watched you play
Your first game ...
... go drifting away
Behind a scatter ...
... thing set free
Into a wilderness, ...
... path should be.
That hesitant figure, ...
... its parent stem,
Has something I ...
... one’s irresolute clay.
I have had ...
... perfectly show –
How selfhood begins ...
... the letting go.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Sean Day-Lewis Reflects on "Walking Away" — A reflection on the poem by the poet's son Sean Day-Lewis, to whom "Walking Away" is dedicated.
Recitation of "Walking Away" — A recording of the poem "Walking Away" read aloud.
Biography of Cecil Day-Lewis — A detailed biography of Cecil Day-Lewis that focuses on the development of his poetry.
Cecil Day-Lewis's "Complete Poems" — A Google book edition of Cecil Day-Lewis's "Complete Poems," with extensive previews of the text.
1It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
2A sunny day with leaves just turning,
3The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
4Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
5Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
6Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
7You walking away from me towards the school
8With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
9Into a wilderness, the gait of one
10Who finds no path where the path should be.
11That hesitant figure, eddying away
12Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
13Has something I never quite grasp to convey
14About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
15Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
16I have had worse partings, but none that so
17Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
18Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
19How selfhood begins with a walking away,
20And love is proved in the letting go.