Friday, January 6, 2012

Poetry Friday: Into the Woods!

Origianl Broadway Cast - Into the Woods
Tomorrow I head across the country to my MFA-Writing for Children and Young Adults teaching residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts. A good portion of my lecture about fairy tales will involve Steven Sondheim's and James Lapine's wonderful musical, Into the Woods. So I offer up the lyrics today of the song which threads its way through that play. The lyrics change from the initial "Children must listen" to "Children should listen" - both of those in a scolding tone - to the haunting "Children will listen" - a message all of us who write for children should think about from time to time.  Of course, if you can listen to Bernadette Peters and the whole cast singing, it's much better heard than read. Here are some links: the first is Peters singing Children Will Listen; the second, the entire cast singing the final verses of Into the Woods, and the third is a neat little summary performance for the Tony Awards the year the play was nominated:


Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.

Guide them along the way,
Children will glisten.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.

Careful before you say,
"Listen to me."
Children will listen.


Careful the wish you make,
Wishes are children.
Careful the path they take --
Wishes come true,
Not free.

Careful the spell you cast,
Not just on children.
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you...


Careful the tale you tell.
That is the spell.
Children will listen...

ALL (in groups):

Though it's fearful,
Though it's deep, though it's dark
And though you may lose the path,
Though you may encounter wolves,
You can't just act,
You have to listen.
You can't just act,
You have to think.

There are always wolves,
There are always spells,
There are always beans,
Or a giant dwells

Into the woods you go again,
You have to every now and then.
Into the woods, no telling when,
Be ready for the journey.

Into the woods, but not too fast,
Or what you wish you lose at last.
Into the woods but mind the past.
Into the woods but mind the future.
Into the woods, but not to stray
Or tempt the Wolf
Or steal from the Giant.

The way is dark,
The light is dim,
But now there's you,
Me, her and him.
The chances look small,
The choices look grim,
But everything you learn there
Will help when you return there.....

[The cast is singing full force now, and the play ends with these lyrics:]

Into the woods -- you have to grope,
But that's the way you learn to cope.
Into the woods to find there's hope
Of getting through the journey.

Into the woods, each time you go,
There's more to learn of what you know.
Into the woods, but not too slow --
Into the woods, it's nearing midnight--
Into the woods to mind the Wolf,
To heed the Witch,
To honor the Giant,
To mind,
To heed,
To find,
To think,
To teach,
To join,
To go to the Festival!

Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods--
And happy ever after!


I wish!

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week over at Teaching Authors. Head there to see what other people have posted. Vermont - here I come! 


  1. I wish to be a fly on the wall of the room where you're speaking in VT!

  2. i've heard sondheim talk about the care he takes with his lyrics, and it shows, but i still marvel at the way he comes about making the connections he does in stories, in moods, in meaning.

    looks like i'm going to miss another fabulous lecture in vermont. i miss my brigadoon...

  3. How cool! I want to come! And thanks for the insights on Into the Woods.