Here’s a little something for you to peruse and ponder. It’s a poem that I cannot get out of my head. I first saw it whilst on a trip to England this summer to attend my dear old mom’s 80th birthday.
While I was visiting with my mom, I happened to be perusing her newspaper (the Daily Express) when I ran across a section called "Forgotten Verse". The idea is that folks write in with a few half-remembered lines from some poem they vaguely recall from years ago. The guy who runs this column at the paper then tracks down the piece in question and publishes it.
Anyway, as I mentioned, on the day I first ran across this section in the paper, I was fortunate to discover a hauntingly beautiful poem that really touched me. I hope you like it as much as I do:
To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence by James Elroy Flecker (1884-1919)
I who am dead a thousand years, And wrote this sweet archaic song, Send you my words for messengers The way I shall not pass along.
I care not if you bridge the seas, Or ride secure the cruel sky, Or build consummate palaces Of metal or of masonry.
But have you wine and music still, And statues and a bright-eyed love, And foolish thoughts of good and ill, And prayers to them who sit above?
How shall we conquer? Like a wind That falls at eve our fancies blow, And old Maeonides the blind Said it three thousand years ago.
O friend unseen, unborn, unknown, Student of our sweet English tongue, Read out my words at night, alone: I was a poet, I was young.
Since I can never see your face, And never shake you by the hand, I send my soul through time and space To greet you. You will understand.
I don’t know about you, but I found this to be very moving and thought-provoking. It’s also a little sad to realize that the writer was only 35 years old when he passed away (this year I celebrated the 18th anniversary of my 35th birthday). Maybe that was “par for the course” back then, but it seems awfully young to me now.
Also, just think about the technology (or lack thereof) that was around when this young man died in 1919. I wonder what he would have said if he’d known that we’d still be talking about his poems today, and what he would have thought about our modern technology in the form of computers, the Internet, and smart phones by which his poems are whizzing around the planet…
Arthur C Clarke had some thoughts on the subject. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" otherwise known as Clarke's 3rd law. And read his "3001" the last in the 2001 series, for some incisive observations about our times, seen in hindsight. I hope he is right, sometimes our society seems to be going backwards to me.
The thing about the internet is that you can find almost anything you want on it (except, in my case, data sheets for some prehistoric chips I have hanging around... :-)
The question is, without the tracker-down and our blogger Max, would any of us think to track down that poem (or even any of a thousand others)? Probably not, we'd carry on tracking down data sheets and other boring stuff. That's where these guys come in, they're performing a "Value-added service!" And a good thing they do....
Re someone making a decent living out of tracking down verses of mostly-forgotten poetry ... and then you have me who makes a living out of writing blogs about someone else who tracks down verses of mostly-forgotten poetry ... where will this madness end? :-)
The funny thing is that this never struck me -- but then I think this column has been going on for mega-years now and quite possibly predates the Internet. I'm sure the guy who runs it uses Google -- plus a lot of folks who write in are older and may not know a "Google" if it bit them on ... an unfortunate place.
The most interesting thing is that someone can make a decent living tracking down verses of mostly-forgotten poetry.
I have a great idea for your country; Get this new-fangled service called "Google" and anyone can do it from the comfort of their own living rooms!
I found 527,000 references to that poem in 0.20 seconds.
love ya, Max
(I'm teasing you as a friend, my friend)
keep up the good work
I more often think what it would be like to write about modern life that would have been understood by those living a hundred years ago. Imagine making that poetic too. I did enjoy the poem. We are all citizens of time.
Maybe I'm turning into an old softie, but this poem really moves me ... let me know if you also enjoyed it, in which case I may root out some more. Also, if you have a favorite of your own, I'd love to hear about it (max@CliveMaxfield.com)
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.