Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Beautiful Longfellow Poem

This poem sums up what I feel about the past, what I've always felt.  I was recently reading my journal from when I was 18, and I was fascinated by passing time then.  I wrote back then of how I wondered it would be when I was 20 years older and reading my words.  It's like looking in a mirror and seeing a thousand enchoing relfections to read what you wrote in anticipation of reading what you wrote back then - got that?  Here is the poem by Longfellow.  The lines in italics are my interjections.....

The Golden Mile-stone

(The scene is winter - winter is a melancholy time.)
Leafless are the trees;  their purple branches
Spread themselves aborad, like reefs of coral,
                           Rising silent
In the Red Sea of the winter sunset.

(Ah - I no longer live in a village.  I live in the encroaching city and it is sad that I live so far from my original home).
From the hundred chimneys of the village,
Like the Afreet in the Arabian story,
                           Smoky columns
Tower aloft into the air of amber.

At the window winks the flickering firelight;
Here and there the lamps of evening glimmer,
                           Social watch-fires
answering one another through the darkness.

On the hearth the lighted logs are glowing,
And like Ariel in the cloven pine-tree,
                           For its freedom
Groans and sighs the air imprisoned in them.

(Here is the most powerful part - for is SO true)
By the fireside there are old men seated,
See ruined cities in the ashes,
                           Asking sadly
Of the Past what it can ne'er restore them.

By the fireside there are youthful dreamers,
Building castles fair, with stately stairways,
                          Asking blindly
Of the Future what it cannot give them.

By the fireside tragedies are acted
In whose scenes appear two actors only,
                          Wife and husband,
And above them God, the sole spectator.

By the fireside there are peace and comfort,
Wives and children, with fair, thoughtful faces,
                           Waiting, watching,
For a well-known footstep in the passage.

Each man's chimney is his Goldn Mile-stone;
Is the central point, from which he measures
                            Evey distance
Through the gateways of the world around him

(I still see my original home, my childhood and I remember those who are now gone.)
In his farthest wanderings still he sees it;
Hears the talking flame, the answering night-wind,
                             As he heard them
When he sat with those who were, but are not.

(Indeed, this is true - but not of me.  And so I see the ruined cities in the flame)
Happy he whom neither wealth nor fashion,
Nor the march of the encroaching city,
                              Drives an exile
From the hearth of his ancestral homestead.

We may build more splendid habitations,
Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculptures,
                              But we cannot
Buy with gold the old associations.

Isn't that beautiful?  Beautiful, but sad - and I think, true.  At 18 years of age I was asking the future what it could not give, and now I look back and ask the past what it cannot give.  Heaven is the only perfect place where all this time business ceases to be important at all.

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