So today is World Poetry Day?
Some have been asking me, over the last few days, about poems on ‘Humanity’ that they composed. It was supposedly a competition. So this is what it was all about. Double celebration, two birds with one stone, a golden concoction of exalted feelings, – noble cocktail indeed!
People have been locking themselves indoors for fear of death, and from behind the closed shutters, today humanity gives chase to Poetry through the boughs and branches of their sweet arbour of imagination! – “Have you ever seen such a thing in your life?”
Ay, had it been someone like that word-wielder, the rhymesmith Robert Browning! He had written the poem Prospice, and I cannot but quote it whole,
Fear death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle’s to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life’s arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute’s at end,
And the elements’ rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!
What dashing courage! What Promethean spirit! The laughter that breaks out in the face of death, the breast that breathes that cold air deep and the eyes don’t shy away from the white prospect, – that, my friend, is the true seeker of Poetry. That is the rider of the gale which carries beyond the petty fields of gain and sorrow, free of modest bonds, away to the horizons where there is no memory nor oblivion.
Humanity. A section of humanity today ponders extinction, or at least, mass death. They think in terms of retribution from nature, punishment for sins, reciprocation for our reckless ravages. How scared we are of dying! How deep is our need to make something special out of it, hallow it or bemoan it in superlative terms, assign mountainous scales to it! – A blip on the glittering canvas dies out. Does the sky even notice?
So many have come and gone. We hold them in memory. The dinosaurs of old, sixty-five million years ago. Gone are the ranging ships of roving pirates, whose stories we still spin in our fantasies of romance and cherished adventure. Chinkling bags of gold doubloons, rubied hilts of swords. All gone.
Should I feel sorry for them?
No. – That would be an insult.
I am not disturbed by dire prospects for humanity. After all, Death does not love a coward, and as one who has wooed Her since long, I should know better than to fear. And about Poetry? Well, it’s a private matter between me and Her, isn’t it?