Saturday, May 24, 2003

The cycle is relentless, unstoppable: death and birth. Today is the baptism of Signe, and the husband and I will stand in front of the altar at Kungsholmskyrkan and take turns with her parents, holding her while a priest recites words that have been passed down for at least a few generations. And then, after she's been sprinkled with water, I will read my own blessing over Signe, stolen from Walt Whitman's 1955 preface to Leaves of Grass:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men - go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families - re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

When I wrote to the priest, Signe's mother, that I wanted to read this as my blessing, she wrote back: "Please read it on Saturday and later help us to teach her to do all the things in the poem. It´s full of very good advice..."

I suppose it won't be easy, teaching all these things.

The Swedish word for the day is dop. It means baptism.

- by Francis S.

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