A variety of comments recently from visitors to the cave have revealed a range of underlying attitudes to our future. Here are some words for you:
Many people feel as if we are heading into dark times:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
But we shouldn’t give ourselves up to despair:
Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been, they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by Eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!
Arthur Hugh Clough: Say not the Struggle Naught availeth
And finally, here is one of my favourite poems. Siegfried Sassoon fought gallantly in the First World War, and lived through some of the most horrifying scenes of slaughter and pointless, ugly death imaginable; beyond our imagining. And we remember the fallen this week, those who died in war and battle, and share the poignant bitterness of loss and regret. But even amidst the horror, Sassoon finds beauty; in this case, the beauty of the irrepressible strength of the human spirit, the possibility of redemption through joy, even in the darkness:
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was fill’d with such delight
As prison’d birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on; on; and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away . . . O but every one
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
Siegfried Sassoon, Everyone Sang
Troubles come and troubles go, mostly of our own making. People struggle and suffer and endure, for that is how we are. The world changes around us, and not always for the better. Real life, for many people, is still nasty, brutish and short. The signs for the future are not good, at the moment; in the words of ‘The Terminator’; ‘There’s a storm coming…’
Our despair is that we are filled with human frailty.
Our hope is that we are filled with indomitable spirit.
That’s me, being pompous again.