Thursday, 23 February 2012

the long and winding road....

I quite like poetry.

Well, in theory I quite like poetry, anyway.  In practice I barely read any at all. Perhaps it’s more truthful to say that although I have an idea that I quite like poetry, and I have a number of poetry books in my shelves, I don’t really spend anywhere near enough time reading them.

 I have a few anthologies of various types as well as some William Blake, some George Herbert, a bit of TS Eliot (I absolutely love the description of the evening sky from “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” as being “Like a patient etherized upon a table”), the usual Shakespeares and Chaucers of someone who did an English A-Level and various other bits and pieces.

I have'em, but I don't really read'em.

There is one poet that I keep coming back to though; one that does make me pick up a poetry book from time to time - Robert Frost. I won’t claim to be familiar in any great depth with his work, but I do find “The Road Not Taken” incredibly resonant and I find myself coming back to it more and more often.

It’s more than a decade ago now that a colleague of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was working for a pretty small team at the time, and we all put together a scrapbook for her when she left the business to focus on getting well.  Everyone wrote something into the book, and although I wasn't especially close to her, I found myself writing out the words to "The Road Not Taken".

The Road Not Taken.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

I added at the bottom the words "Never regret the road your life didn't take".  I don't know if that was appropriate or not - cancer is hardly a road you would choose to take, after all - but it felt like the right sentiment.

I think it's a lovely poem.  I love the cadence of it, as much as anything, but it's that last bit that I'm drawn to.  Of course, you can interpret it how you want, but although I'm hardly a glass-half-full kind of a guy,  I like to think that the last stanza is said without regret.  What would be the point of regretting a path your life didn't take?  It might have made all the difference, but who is to know if that's a good or a bad thing?  Besides, what are you going to do about it now?

I don't really have a personal motto or a mantra or a philosophy or anything like that, but if I did, it would be that: never regret the path your life didn't take.  You can only go forwards, kiddo.  It might be the road less travelled by, but right now it's the only road you've got. 

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Yeah, I love that one too.

Mind you, I also find poetry in the music of Iron Maiden, so what do I know?

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