Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Poems I Journey With 16

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861) was one of the most prominent English poets of the Victorian era, popular in Britain and the United States during her lifetime. She was vehemently anti-slavery even though her father had earned much of his wealth from that much maligned, exploitative and cruel industry. She had married her husband Robert Browning in secret and went with him to live in Florence, having been disinherited by her father. Emily Dickinson was an avid fan of Barrett Browning and the latter’s work greatly influenced the American poet who admired her as a woman of achievement. Her popularity in the United States and Britain was further advanced by her stands against social injustice, including slavery in the United States, injustice toward Italian citizens by foreign rulers, and child labour.

Here, let me offer the reader of this blog two poems from Barrett Browning’s pen, “A Musical Instrument” published posthumously and her most frequently anthologized poem “How do I Love Thee?” Both poems speak eloquently for themselves and are rather ethereal and mystical in tone and sentiment. Barrett Browning was extremely spiritual and religious and a gifted linguist and scholar, all self-taught.  She knew Greek, Latin and Hebrew and translated many pieces from the early Fathers of the Church into English and read the Hebrew Bible. All her life she was sickly, but her delicate physical condition did not prevent either her intellectual or spiritual insights and visions.

A Musical Instrument

I.
WHAT was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

II.
He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river:
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.

III.
High on the shore sate the great god Pan,
While turbidly flowed the river;
And hacked and hewed as a great god can,
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of a leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

IV.
He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notched the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sate by the river.

V.
This is the way,' laughed the great god Pan,
Laughed while he sate by the river,)
The only way, since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed.'
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.

VI.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

VII.
Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, —
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river.
Elizabeth's husband Robert Browning and their son Robert Junior, called Pen

How Do I Love Thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Sonnet XLIII
from Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1845 (published 1850)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Poems I Journey With 15

Old depiction of Horace

There is much richness in the classics, that is in Latin and classical Greek texts. Unfortunately, I never got to study classical Greek at school, though I did study Latin to Leaving Certificate level. Being reasonably good at languages, I also loved studying the poems of Virgil, Horace and Ovid and so on. Much of what I learned over forty years ago is unfortunately lost somewhere in the recesses of my memory.  Retirement will certainly entice me to reacquaint myself with the Latin language and some of the texts of those old poets. I remember well Horace’s agricultural metaphors and his love for wine. I’m sure the reader of these lines will know that most famous of quotes from his pen, namely “carpe diem” or “seize/pluck the day.”  These few lines from that famous Ode are worth quoting here for the beauty of the language: “Tu ne quaesieris — scire nefas — quem mihi, quem tibi finem di dederint, Leuconoë .... dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.” = “Do not ask — it is wrong to know (it is impossible to know) — what end (quem finem) the gods have in store for you or for me, Leuconoë .... while we talk (discuss) envious time flees away: pluck the day, and believe as little as possible in tomorrow!”  I wish I was at home in Latin so that I could translate the verses given on my own. I had to use an on-line dictionary and Google translate and compare to other translations.  Still I enjoyed the activity as I began to remember some of my old Latin skills.

The reason I begin this post with a diversion into an Horatian Ode is that I should like to share a poem from the great Professor, classical scholar and poet A.E. Housman (1859 – 1936) with you all this evening. He was steeped in all things classical and is reckoned to be one of the greatest classical scholars of the twentieth century. Such poets as those listed above and many others from both Latin and Greek would have influenced my chosen poet.


XXXI

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.
 
'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.
 
Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
 
There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.
 
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

Briefest of Commentaries

A.E. Housman
This poem occurs in a collection called A Shropshire Lad and was first published in 1896 at Housman's own expense after several publishers had turned it down. His colleagues and students were surprised by the emotional depth and vulnerability it revealed in an apparently distant and self-contained man.  This poem is the 31st poem, its title designated in Roman numerals as XXXI of some 63 poems in the collection.  In the distance, some five miles to the north of Wenlock Edge, is a forested hill, the Wrekin (pronounced REE-kin).

“Holt” is an old Germanic word (and English, with its Anglo-Saxon ancestry, is a Germanic language) for a wood, a forested area.  “Hanger” also comes from an old Anglo-Saxon term; it means a wood on a slope, like the forest on Wenlock Edge. The wind blew through those woods “when Uricon the city stood.”  He is taking us back to Roman Britain — Britain after the Romans had invaded and settled there.  His “Uricon” was the Roman city Viriconium/Viroconium, also called Uriconium, which lay where the present day town of Wroxeter lies, several miles west of the Wrekin.  It was the fourth largest Roman City in ancient Britain.

As a classicist, A.E. Housman is reminded of Roman Britain.  As he views the restlessness of the fleecy trees on Wenlock Edge and on Wrekin hill or mountain he becomes aware of his own restlessness and realises that such discomfort has been part of the human condition for hundreds of years. We are in the province, of course, of what was classically called “pathetic fallacy,” namely the attribution of human feelings and responses to inanimate things or animals, especially in art and literature. Here “'Tis the old wind in the old anger,” and then we have the recalling or imagining of how a Roman soldier or official might have felt over 1500 years before:
Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
 
A.E. Housman is moved by the restlessness of the wind in the trees and by his own inner restlessness as part of the human condition. He feels deeply his own continuity with the sympathies and emotions of another human being from more ancient times, especially with how a Roman soldier or official might have felt standing in the same spot as the poet. This is a wonderfully simple but an extraordinarily powerful poem from a very fine poet.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Poems I Journey With 14

Emily Dickinson
After Gerard Manley Hopkins, I turn most often to the wonderful and wondrous rhythms of the poems of Emily Dickinson, another spiritual and mystical poet who also loved her periods of isolation and aloneness and even ascetic living like the Victorian Jesuit priest and convert. Dickinson was born in 1830 (fourteen years before Hopkins was born) and died at the age of 56 in 1886 when Hopkins was 42.  While their lives overlapped then for some 42 years in terms of linear time neither would obviously have been aware of the writings of the other given their personal and indeed the social circumstances of the day and indeed the fact that neither sought publication of their work.  But, I personally get a lot of spiritual sustenance from the poems of both great poets. Both were also most unusual is that they both broke away from the then conservative conventions of what poetry was deemed to be. While both are spiritual and mystical poets their work is correspondingly completely "sui generis," unique and authentic to the very syllable of their output.  As her poems are so short I will offer three short favourite poems from Dickinson's pen here below:

1. Hope is a thing with feathers

Hope is a thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

2.  Heaven

"Heaven"—is what I cannot reach!
The Apple on the Tree—
Provided it do hopeless—hang—
That—"Heaven" is—to Me!

The Color, on the Cruising Cloud—
The interdicted Land—
Behind the Hill—the House behind—
There—Paradise—is found!

Her teasing Purples—Afternoons—
The credulous—decoy—
Enamored—of the Conjuror—
That spurned us—Yesterday! 


A somewhat younger Emily Dickinson


3. My cocoon tightens, colors tease

MY cocoon tightens, colors tease, 
I 'm feeling for the air; 
A dim capacity for wings 
Degrades the dress I wear. 

A power of butterfly must be 
The aptitude to fly, 
Meadows of majesty concedes 
And easy sweeps of sky. 

So I must baffle at the hint 
And cipher at the sign, 
And make much blunder, if at last 
I take the clew divine. 

The Briefest of Commentaries:
I love Emily Dickinson's poems because they invariably give me a spiritual lift and a deep insight into the depths that simple things can have. I also like her unique writing style with dashes, which is completely unique to her and revolutionary, indeed, at the time she was writing.  She is simply unique, "sui generis" and so authentic. Who could not be moved by the image of a little bird?  It is at once so fragile and yet can fly to such heights and gain an overall view of things we humans are not privy to. Then the equating of hope - a complete abstraction - with that little physical image of a bird is simply mindblowingly powerful.  That equation or juxtaposition of two utterly different "objects" is so wonderful and wondrous that it strikes us immediately as being insightful. Hope, which we all need to keep going, is often as fragile as a little bird which we often doubt will be able to weather the storms of life. Where does that little bird of hope perch? Yes, in the very cage of our souls!  It sings a tune without words, the delicate and fragile tune of hope.  And that strange little fragile creature, that brittle bird of hope, never asked a single crumb of sustenance from its jailer, that is, ME and YOU and US!!

The second poem is about Heaven. However, no mystic will ever offer a cheap or cheapened image of that place or state or whatever we call Heaven.  Dickinson presents that reality as somewhat unattainable like the apple on the highest bough while we are mere children playing about the trunk of that great tree. There are hints also of Moses not being granted his wish to the Promised Land which has traditionally also been linked with whatever Heaven is, may be or could be. In fact, I like this poem also, and have placed it under the poem on Hope as Dickinson talks about the reaching of the apple being absolutely hopeless.  In that regard let me repeat its opening stanza for our contemplation here:

"Heaven"—is what I cannot reach!
The Apple on the Tree—
Provided it do hopeless—hang—
That—"Heaven" is—to Me!

The third poem reminds me of the sage advice, or at least the wise comment of Anais Nin (1903 - 1977) that the day will come for all of us "when the risk to remain tight in the bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom."  These words resonate with those of the entire poem and especially those of the first stanza. The growth of the little seed in the bud to full flower and blossom parallels the formation of the butterfly from egg to larva (caterpillar) to pupa (chrysalis) to adult butterfly:

MY cocoon tightens, colors tease, 
I 'm feeling for the air; 
A dim capacity for wings 
Degrades the dress I wear. 

Poems I Journey With 13

A young GM Hopkins at University
Gerard Manley Hopkins was only one month short of his 45th birthday when he died from typhoid fever in Dublin, Ireland in 1889.  He had been employed as a lecturer in classics in the Catholic University of Ireland (the forerunner of University College Dublin) founded by the great Victorian John Henry Cardinal Newman in 1854.  The world-renowned literary critic Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks, an expert on the Victorian period deems Hopkins to be "the most original poet" of that time. Such is Hopkins's originality and genius that he may clearly considered as influential as T.S. Eliot in the starting of the modernist movement in poetry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is also quite obvious to poetry readers that G.M. Hopkins's experiments with elliptical phrasing and double meanings, and even quirky conversational rhythms liberated the likes of W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas to give free rein to their freer and peculiarly personal rhythms. Here I'd like to share one of my favourite Hopkins poems with the reader.

God's Grandeur (1877, written when the poet was 33)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod
And for all this nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black west went
Oh ,morning at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Commentary:
Rev Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
I don't want to mar the appreciation of this sonnet by superfluous or simplistic comment. However, some thoughts and reflections are demanded by this beautifully sublime text.  On the surface we will notice that it is written in the form of the Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet - that is a poem in fourteen lines that consists of an octave (eight lines) with the rhyming scheme abbaabba and a sestet (six lines) that has the possibility of either being written in one of two rhyme schemes - either cdecde or cdcdcd. The sestet above is the latter of these two schemes. However, Hopkins does more, much more, that is, he experiments with many interesting sounds within that external superficial scheme.  We note that the metre here is not that of "sprung rhythm" for which Hopkins is so famous, but he does vary greatly the iambic pentameter lines of the conventional sonnet. In that context, we notice the run-on lines between the end word "oil" of the third and the beginning word of the next line that is very dramatic and startling, namely "Crushed."  And the next nine monosyllabic words in that very line after the disyllabic, namely Why do men then now not reck his rod? are nothing short of wonderfully unique and sonorous in sound and tone.  They are all stressed syllables, one after another and highlight the urgency of Hopkins question represented in those words. I relish reading them aloud as all readers of poetry should. Like many of my teachers over the years in the area of poetry, I firmly believe the poems are written more for the ear than for the eye. In like manner, the next line contains the heavy falling rhythm of the repeated words "have trod" that come after the quick lilt of the polysyllabic "generations."  This technique recreates the sound of plodding steps in a striking onomatopoeia.
God's sustaining power over the universe is alive with an electric power that passes constantly like a live current through its many natural manifestations. The reader can trace this potent image of God's on-going support of nature through the poem in his own time.  The image of the olive press is also magnificently and startlingly potent.  This reader especially loves the lines:

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell

because they capture for me the smelliness and dirtiness of our daily toil and thereby portray our struggle with our animality, fragility and mortality all imaged forth so powerfully in simple and direct everyday words. I also delight in Hopkins's portrayal of humankind's alienation from its spiritual and natural roots in the soil from which indeed he himself has sprung.  The very leather of his shoes or boots cuts him off from his oneness or unity with the very clay or soil of that earth :

nor can foot feel, being shod. 

In short, this poem reflects Gerard Manley Hopkins's conviction that the physical world  around us is like a book written by God, in which any attentive reader can detect the signs of a benevolent and caring God who protects and sustains that world like a great guardian angel:

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Poems I Journey With 12

The world throws up many wonderful and wondrous souls over and over again, but none so wonderful and wondrous as Isaac Rosenberg (1890 - 1918) who was sadly killed at the age of 27 as he and others were returning to their trenches, having just finished night patrol. Rosenberg was the least privileged of the British poets as he was born into a poor working-class Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia.  His economic circumstances militated against his attending either Cambridge or Oxford. However, he was a talented artist as well as a great poet, whom both Eliot and Pound acknowledged as a good modernist poet - great praise indeed.  Had he lived he would have matched them with work equally as good as theirs.  Alas that was not to be.  Too many young men were killed during the Great War - "half the seed of Europe one by one" as Wilfred Owen, another First World War poet would put it. As a talented artist, the young Rosenberg enrolled in evening classes in the Art School at Birkbeck College, London University. Indeed, he had hoped to make his living as a portrait artist and had moved to South Africa to pursue that career when war broke out. Like most young men of his time he would have felt he was abandoning his native homeland were he not to return to England and enlist. He was no sympathizer with the war at all - he simply felt duty-bound like many a young man of his era.  He was to write in a letter to a friend that "I never joined the army for patriotic reasons.  Nothing can justify war.  I suppose we must all fight to get the trouble over."  Commentators are united in their view that the voice of a modernist poet can be heard in his poems.

Returning, We Hear the Larks

Sombre the night is. 
And though we have our lives, we know
What sinister threat lies there.

Dragging these anguished limbs, we only know
This poison-blasted track opens on our camp –
On a little safe sleep. 

But hark! joy - joy - strange joy. 
Lo! heights of night ringing with unseen larks. 
Music showering our upturned list’ning faces.

Death could drop from the dark
As easily as song –
But song only dropped, 
Like a blind man’s dreams on the sand
By dangerous tides, 
Like a girl’s dark hair for she dreams no ruin lies there, 
Or her kisses where a serpent hides. 

Isaac Rosenberg, selfportrait, 1915


It is somewhat ironic that it was when returning from such a patrol the the young artist and poet, Isaac Rosenberg was killed. "
And though we have our lives, we know //What sinister threat lies there" are words sombre indeed as the night. The opening imagery is clear and stark: "dragging anguished limbs," "poison-blasted tracks," and then the wonder of hearing a little joyous song breaks the sombre tone with joyful aural images in the stanza

But hark! joy - joy - strange joy. 
Lo! heights of night ringing with unseen larks. 
Music showering our upturned list’ning faces,

lines that obviously make more sense when read aloud to get their full aural effect. And then, we are given the wondrous and wonderful final stanza that is loaded with mystery and magic interwoven with fear and dread. It is as if Rosenberg is taking the fear and awfulness created in the first and second stanzas and the joy, beauty and exultation of the third and combining them both into a rather eerily beautiful and shockingly scary mixture in the final stanza. It is indeed eerie and scary that death can drop from the dark sky just as easily as song, but that is the nature of war.  Then those wondrous and magical lines that suggest inevitable lostness (blindman's dreams) on "sands," (not a very stable support) which are right beside "dangerous tides" (being washed away to destruction.)  Then those juxtaposed opposites in "girl's dark hair" (love and beauty) and the "ruin" that may lie there is hauntingly bleak. Finally, then, even her kisses which should be sweet, may hide the serpent lurking deep within.  And so, to end, dear reader, let us reread and ponder the words of the last stanza:

Death could drop from the dark 
As easily as song – 
But song only dropped, 
Like a blind man’s dreams on the sand 
By dangerous tides, 
Like a girl’s dark hair for she dreams no ruin lies there, 

Or her kisses where a serpent hides. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Poems I Journey With 11



Clarity versus Unclarity

This contrast is one that has always confounded me. On the one hand each of us desires clarity and yet there is pretty little of it to be found in this world - at least, of the logical variety. At college we had to read Albert Camus' short book The Myth of Sisyphus for our philosophy class. For Camus, the philosopher of the absurd, or the absurd person, demands clarity or certainty above all, but again there is little or none to be found in the world around him. The sense of the absurd, then, results from the the conflict that is created between human reason that demands clarity and the unreasonable universe that is very unclear indeed.  

I remember many years ago when I was a green young teacher walking into a staff room early one winter's morning to find a colleague named Gerard Smith, one very smart young gentleman, asking me the following question, "Well, Tim, what is it all about?"  What a huge question that was, and I was taken aback to be asked it so early in the morning.  I don't remember what I replied, but I certainly would have said little of worth as I was quite a shy young man then with little confidence. A few years later we were all to learn that poor Gerard had died in America, having taken a career break from school. It as only then that we found out that the poor man had a congenital and fatal heart defect from his youth and that there remained little time on earth for him when he asked his question.  In hindsight, I then understood why he had asked that weighty question.  Again, he would have known that I had a background in theology and philosophy, and he perhaps believed that I could furnish him with some sort of answer to his deep question.

Most religious or spiritual gurus and writers acknowledge the unclarity of the world and the sheer lack of any logical answers. They simply have a different take on things, a much different perspective. Often they even seem to delight in the sheer unclarity of things, and speak about mysticism, wonder and mystery, especially that mystery which the divine is, that mystery that simply cannot be caught in a net of words or in dogmatic phrases no matter how intricate or sublime. There are other ways, apparently of encountering the world, outside the logical. Those who have this perspective are often fond of quoting the words of Blaise Pascal: "Le coeur as ses raisons que la raison ne connait point" - "The heart has its reasons which reason itself cannot understand." It is with this background in mind that I now invite the reader to read Louis Macneice's very fine poem called "Entirely:"

             Louis Macneice 1907 - 1963


Entirely

If we could get the hang of it entirely 
   It would take too long; 
All we know is the splash of words in passing   
   And falling twigs of song, 
And when we try to eavesdrop on the great   
   Presences it is rarely 
That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate   
   Even a phrase entirely. 

If we could find our happiness entirely 
   In somebody else’s arms 
We should not fear the spears of the spring nor the city’s 
   Yammering fire alarms 
But, as it is, the spears each year go through 
   Our flesh and almost hourly   
Bell or siren banishes the blue   
   Eyes of Love entirely. 

And if the world were black or white entirely 
   And all the charts were plain 
Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters, 
   A prism of delight and pain, 
We might be surer where we wished to go   
   Or again we might be merely 
Bored but in brute reality there is no 
     Road that is right entirely.

I love this poem because of its complete honesty and total authenticity.  The poet does not trot out old pieties or standard traditional phrases that simplify life. Rather, he honestly presents a perspective on life which is all too common and all too realistic - that is, that life is exceedingly complex and often beyond our understanding of it.  In short, the poet admits to being somewhat stumped about the mystery that life faces us with. The theme is clear, and that theme is that there is no ultimate clarity. Camus drove himself wild looking for such clarity.  

In stanza one the poet recounts how we simply cannot "get the hang of it entirely," and even if we could, we simply would not live long enough to figure it out.  When we listen we often only pick up a fraction of what is said.  Indeed, we readers can add in our minds to this that we often do not see the full picture as we are only granted a certain perspective on events, often from an awkward angle. MacNeice hints at religious and spiritual themes when he says that when sometimes we try to "eavesdrop on the great Presences" we scarcely succeed in that endeavour at all.  

"[S]plash of words" and "falling twigs of song" are two powerful images with the second one blending two totally opposite realities - twigs (physical) and song (immaterial). Love is fleeting, not just the romantic idea of it, but its physical reality, as we are not entirely satisfied in our physical experience of it.  The imagery of "spears" reminds us of Shakespeare's line "to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and the intended meaning of both is the same, namely a battle image to sum up the misfortunes we encounter in our lives. The "yammering fire alarms" are those that are constantly calling out to warm the citizens of London about the fires consequent on enemy attack.  Those bells "banish the Blue Eyes of Love entirely."

The last stanza is as succinct as the other two and points out that it is ludicrous to approach life in a "black and white" manner as there are too many other colours in between the two that manifest themselves through "a prism of delight and pain." Indeed, even the maps we get are not one hundred per cent clear and logical. They are, rather, more than somewhat unclear as they often manifest themselves in actuality as "a mad weir of tigerish waters."  Then there are times that we merely grow bored of trying to find our way through the maze of unclarity that much of life can be. Whatever our reaction to our situation in life is, we can be fully sure that there is "no road that is right entirely."


Finally, the title is a most apt and succinct summary of the poem, that is, that we can never be totally sure entirely. I find this a comforting poem in the down periods of my life as I begin to be less hard on myself as a result of the wisdom garnered here. After all, we will never get everything right entirely. Not even the commentary on this poem.