An Argument Against Moderation in All Things
March 1, 2013
A Dream of Trees
by Mary Oliver
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
It takes a poet to find the glimmer of meaning in suffering and pain — that is life after all. I yearn to go on retreat and dream of its promise of peace, but perhaps to stay engaged will yield the more worthy rewards.
Victory in Defeat
by Edwin Markham
Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.
When the great oak is straining in the wind,
The boughs drink in new beauty, and the trunk
Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come
To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.
“Poets must have a way of life as businessmen, teachers, scientists, publishers — something of a nature that keeps them in mortal danger of their lives and their self-respect. Something which demands sacrifice from them of time, energy, thought, creativity, from which they go with a feeling of relief and accomplishment when they succeed and which permits them to write poetry then. This poetry will be rooted in their lives and be authentic, even if despairing and hard and bitter because of the demands of their lives and the subsequent disillusions.
There is nothing any man should fear more than to escape for too long a time from his life. He will then have no way of returning to it and will be as lost as though he had lost his life, for in living and meeting the problems, unbalances and unfairness in life we find a meaning.”
— from The Notebooks of David Ignatow, edited by Ralph J. Mills, Jr.