The Golden Boat
Ever have the feeling that children’s songs and rhymes reflect the true meanings of life? That hidden underneath the actions and simple melodies are pieces of eternal wisdom and knowledge of the world?
One recent afternoon, we were moving around our home buzzing to the rhythm of ordinary domesticity. Train tracks on the ground for the two-year old, me folding laundry and my six-year old daughter keeping busy on the sofa with some form of being a teacher to her dolls.
As I folded and sorted, I heard a soft rhyme being sweetly said:
This is a boat, a golden boat
Which sails the silvery sea
This was a rhyme which was new. As I am always so excited to hear the latest release from school circle time I casually leaned a bit closer so I could hear better:
These are the oars of ivory white
Which lift and dip, and lift and dip
And steer the boat, the golden boat
Upon the silvery sea
What a lovely image, I thought, as I pictured the oars and my daughter made lifting and dipping motions with her body.
And these are the ten small ferryman,
Who take the oars of ivory white
And lift and dip, and lift and dip
To steer the boat, the golden boat
Upon the silvery sea.
My son stopped joining his train tracks and looked up at his sister as she spread her fingers to show the ten small ferrymen and then gestured as to how they held the oars. And then, as she opened up her arms as wide as she could manage, she finished by saying:
And this is the moon so big and round
That shines on the boat which is homeward bound
Home to the harbour, safe and sound
Goes the boat, the golden boat
Upon the silvery sea.
Silence. I felt my insides melting. What was it about these simple words, innocently remembered, which made me so emotional?
Such powerful symbols in a few short lines: The golden boat, a silvery sea, oars to steer and ferrymen to aid with the effort, and finally, the moon – not just any moon but a full moon, round and shining – guiding home to safe harbour. As a parent, is there any wish greater that what is in this rhyme? That our children, as precious and sturdy as golden boats, should find their way upon the waves of the world, towards safety, helped by well made tools, their own effort and nature itself.
In the Quran, Allah mentions boats and ships numerous times. In fact, a ship sailing upon the sea is a Divine sign and cause for deep reflection (Quran 42:32) as well as being a Sacred gift for which we should be ever grateful (30:46). Unsurprisingly, our human fascination with the sea, its treasures and its navigation remains strong and necessary even in our modern world of air travel and the imagery of it is a particularly powerful reminder to hearts both young and old.
“Your Sustainer is He who causes ships to move onward for you through the sea, so that you might go about in quest of some of His bounty: verily, a dispenser of grace is He unto you.”
(Learn to fold your own golden boat here)