on a literal odyssey
My Dad rarely read to us when we were children. It’s not that he didn’t want to. I just think that we, as children, preferred to have our mother read us stories and he understood that.
There was, however, one story which I can clearly remember him reading to us: Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant.” I remember it so vividly because when he came to the end of the story, he was noticeably moved. As a result, that story made a strong impression on me.
Years later, a week before I came home from my mission, I spent one tedious night consumed with doubts, pains and fears. That night, while pleading to the Lord for any sort of respite from the pain, all I could think about was the story “The Selfish Giant.” Consequently, I spent the entire sleepless night and rewrote the story into a poem; taking away some details and adding others. It’s present meaning and application has had a profound impact on my life.
And I’d like to share what I wrote with you.
The Selfish Giant
A poem by Seth Adam Smith
Once long ago, in a land far away,
Was the garden of a Giant where children would play
Midst the flowers and trees they would giggle and smile,
Enjoying the absence of the Giant for a while.
For the Giant himself was not a kind man,
And selfishly prized his flowering land.
So while he was gone, the children would creep,
Into the Garden, within his keep.
And there they would laugh and there they would say:
“How happy we are to be here this day!”
One day the Giant came sooner than thought.
Having early obtained all he had sought.
But seeing the children (to him were strangers),
His selfishness boiled to fiery anger.
He bellowed and roared and chased them from trees.
“This garden is mine! It belongs to me!”
Without daring to ask the Giant’s pardon,
The children fled from their precious garden.
In furious rage the Giant did build,
A wall to encompass his flowering fields.
“This garden is mine and no other man’s.”
So unto myself I’ll enjoy these lands.”
And so it was, he built the wall,
Large and thick, strong and tall.
And the seasons went from fall to fall,
Yet nothing changed within that wall.
Outside they saw summer and spring,
But behind that wall no birds did sing.
A wintry landscape stayed all year round,
And piles of snow did cover the ground.
For many years it remained like this,
And spring, the Giant, did surely miss.
“Where are the flowers that graced this place?”
The Giant said with a tear stained face.
So there he sat in the dead of his winter,
All alone, and ever so bitter.
But one cold day long after that fall,
The Giant heard something within his wall.
Leaping from his bed to peer outside,
“What is this?!” The Giant cried.
For in the wall the children found,
A tiny hole, small and round.
Through which they crawled to return once more
And play in that garden they had before.
The music he heard was simply sweet:
The laugher of children running on feet.
And the bitter cold that once had been
Began to melt as the warmth came in.
The trees blossomed and flowers grew,
Life itself seemed to start anew.
Feeling the love of this heavenly scene,
The Giant cried “How selfish I have been!”
So running at last from his frozen abode,
He went to them, his love overflowed.
But the children who saw him draw ever so near,
Remembered his anger and hid in fear.
“No, do not run from me, I say!
Dear children, I’ve changed. Please, oh stay!”
But heeding not they all did run,
And with them went the springtime sun.
The winter began its biting freeze
And snow at once covered the trees.
When all had gone the Giant did weep:
“Why to myself did I selfishly keep?”
The Giant had realized what he had done,
And in crying he heard, he wasn’t alone.
Wiping his tears he glanced all around
And near a tree a small boy he found.
The child was crying for he had tried
To reach a tree the others had climbed.
The branches were high for this boy so small,
That he noticed nothing nor the Giant at all.
So creeping behind this grief stricken boy,
The Giant lifted him as though he were a toy.
And wiping the tears from both of their faces,
The Giant put him in the tree’s highest places.
The boy giggled and laughed as he saw all around
But in a hurry he struggled to return to the ground.
He stood before the Giant, there was no fear,
And he beckoned him to draw ever so near.
On his knees the Giant to him who called
For the Giant knew himself to be tall.
The little boy looked on him with grace,
Then hugged him softly in grateful embrace.
When the others had seen this dramatic scene,
They saw the garden from white to green.
The flowers shown through and the trees bare fruit
The grasses grew and the roses took root.
In wonder and awe they crept back in,
To places where frost of bitterness had been.
With tears of great joy the Giant did holler:
“Children this is yours, it belongs to no other!”
And with his axe he tore down the wall,
The one he had built so wide and tall.
And from that day on the children did come,
To laugh and to play and frolic and run.
But within some time Giant was confused,
And to every had asked “Where is the boy I knew?”
The children said they knew not where he’d gone,
But the Giant asked for him many years long.
Time continued and that Giant grew old
And of his great kindness fables are told.
Children did come, children did play,
The Giant waxed older, his hair going grey.
But every time the children had come to play,
He’d ask if the boy had come with them today.
Many years passed and he never did see,
That kind hearted boy who filled him with glee.
But one spring morning many years after,
The Giant heard a small and familiar laugher.
Looking from his window he saw the boy!
The very one he had lifted as though a toy.
With cheer and joy he bolted from his home,
To see the boy so long ago known.
But while to him he ran to greet,
The Giant beheld his hands….his feet.
And slowing down in woe, his heart on fail,
The Giant beheld on the boy the prints of nails.
Looking on him who gave fruit to his trees,
He said, “My friend, who hath wounded thee?
Tell me now and I shall take my axe,
And stop him now in his very tracks!”
The boy but smiled and shook his head,
Then taking his hand he quietly said:
“No, my dear friend, do not be sad,
For these are wounds which must be had.
They were given in love for everyone.”
Kneeling the Giant said, “What hast thou done?”
“Once you let me play in your garden of love,
Now join me in mine, in Heaven above.”
He stood before the Giant, a friend so dear,
And beckoned him unto Him ever so near.
On his knees the Giant to Him who called,
For the Giant knew the boy was taller than all.
With the last of his strength he gave his remainder,
Weeping at last he hugged his Savior.
When the children returned that day to play,
They found their Giant who had passed away
He lay under the tree, where which he had met,
The one who had freed him from his selfish net.
Covered in blossoms he laid down to rest,
Having now joined our King, our Lord, our Best.
And so it is for all who try,
To tear down the wall which lies inside.
Just open your heart to the goodness of life,
To Him who took upon all pain and strife.
He who can do for us all wondrous things,
Our Savior, Our Redeemer…the King of Kings.