Yes, I like my alliteration.
I’ve never been one to really enjoy poetry at all. The “Late Plays of Shakespeare” class I took in college was brutal. I could never grasp what he was trying to say. Why not just state it point-blank? Who needs all those crazy, flowing phrases that by the end I don’t remember what the author was trying to get across in the first place? Not me. As a graduate student, I’m always reading at work, but it’s not easy, leisurely reading. When I actually have a chance to pick up a book for fun, I don’t want to work to understand it. I want something that I can understand the first time I read it through. Minimal brain power required.
Well that was what I wanted until last summer. Last July, I learned that it’s not usually about the destination but the journey to the destination. Life happens during the journey. Whether it’s the excitement about starting a new job, or making a blanket for a friend, or finishing a book, or getting healthy, the experience isn’t only about reaching the goal. It’s what happens along the way and taking in the experience of each step. When I finally understood this (or at least had a lightbulb moment), I began to see things differently. I began looking for the value in each moment and asking, “What can I learn from this?” This realization also has allowed me to be gracious with myself and enjoy things I might have normally hated or shied away from. Like yoga. And poetry.
In the series finale of “Frasier”, the main character shares a few beautiful lines of poetry with some friends at a party. It was incredibly moving, so I looked it up. Turns out it was from the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem “Ulysses”. My first instinct was to close the browser window because there was no way I’d understand it. Instead I decided to try something different and give the poem a slow read through.
Boy am I glad I did! I absolutely LOVED it! Sure there were words that I didn’t know – so I looked them up. Sure I didn’t grasp the phrasing or the meaning the first time I read it – so I read it again. This patience with myself and willingness to not “get it” the first time unlocked the door to a segment of literature that I never appreciated until now. This doesn’t mean that I pick up poetry every chance I get, but it does mean that I’m way more willing to give it a try.
You can find the full poem from multiple sites just by conducting a basic Google search, but the excerpt below is my favorite part of the poem. Enjoy!
“Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson