Handprint Poem


Ode:  Upon the Leaving of a Handprint


When ages hence our hands do meet again,

As palm to palm,

To span the breadth of time between;

Measure not the gap with yard or time,

But consider justly all the hands

between the two have wrought.

And judge the distance, if there be at all,

to be the deeds of each,

And muse upon the work that’s left to do.





     I have had several requests from parents who were unable to locate the source of the poem “Ode: On The Leaving of a Handprint,” that was included with the children’s ceramic handprints, and I did want to clarify that while I perhaps should have written that it was a poem attributed to William Wordsworth, recent scholarship leaves little doubt as to its provenance.

     It is perhaps not well known that in the poet’s later years, tourists to the Lake District could drop by his house and have tea with him and his sister for the equivalent of a few dollars.  It was also not unheard of for a tourist to bring along a book for the poet to inscribe.  The poem in question was found written in the poet’s own hand on the flyleaf of a first edition of Lyrical Ballads that I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago on a visit to Oak Island, a small vacation spot off the coast of Nova Scotia.  The poem was inscribed to a “Robert Townsend Skipper” with a note asking him, in the future, to “jolly well keep (his) nephew’s hands out of the jam pot while he visited a famous poet thank you very much.”  It can be inferred that this jam-covered nephew would, naturally, be the subject of the poem.

     Coincidentally, this same Robert Townsend Skipper was, later in life, to distinguish himself in the war of 1812, eventually earning a commission in the British Navy.  It is now believed that the book was passed down in his family, as it was known that he maintained a summer home on Oak Island, and the book was discovered in an old sea chest bearing his name.




One Response to “Handprint Poem”

  1. Suzanne Malec-McKenna Says:

    Mr. Wanberg,

    Finally, February 3, I have explored your website. It is absolutely amazing! It is clear your 20 years of teaching have only made your methods richer and more caring.

    Your creativity, accessibility and commitment are an inspiration. We are so incredibly blessed to have you as Jonah’s teacher. And you, like Ms Fisher, are a clear reason that Peirce is the special school it is and drives me to help however I can.

    Thanks for all you do.



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