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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


It’s been a very long time since I posted some of my favourite poems here (in fact I have done it only once before; see 'Fafaia'.) 

Here are three at one go.The first, by Robert Frost. It’s called Fire and Ice, and goes like this:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I have known of desire,
I hold with those who favour fire.
But – if it had to perish twice –
I think I know enough of hate
To think that for destruction ice
Is also great,
And should suffice.

The second, by Walter S. Landor:

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved, and next to nature, Art.
I warmed my hands before the fire of life:
It sinks,
And I am ready to depart.

Only the most supremely self-possessed of men can close their accounts so quietly; the worst that life and fate and the fear of death can do cannot break their spirits.

The last one, by Francis Bourdillon:

The Night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one,
But the light of a whole world dies
When the sun is gone.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one,
But the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.

One test of genuine goodness is that its appeal never palls, never fades. I read all three poems in my teenage, and I adore them quite as much still. The only thing that has changed is the quality and depth of my appreciation: in connection with the third poem, for instance, I realize now (though I had suspicions even when I was very young) that the romantic affection between two young people is the commonest, cheapest, most evanescent variety of love; a higher love is that of parent for child, higher even is the love that keeps a true scientist going through adverse and discouraging circumstances, vastly higher still is the kind of love that makes patriotic martyrs and Florence Nightingales, and most sublime of all is the love of God.


Supra said...

Fire is desire and frost would rather the world end in fiery passion rather than in the cold hate of ice though they are both equally destructive. That is what the poem says to me. It might be a stretch for me to also interpret fire can lead to ice but it also seems to suggest that with "If I should perish twice". Think of someone you loved. This poem is wonderful. It demonstrates the dilemma we human beings face. At one point, our world is filled with fire, which means expanding desire for the material things; fame and sex are burning in this fire and feel the pain of it. But ironically, we will not drop it for this pain but grasp it more tightly. At the opposite side, we are to cold to the other people. We do not care about anyone else except ourselves, and we do not care about anything except something that concerning our interests. In a simple world, we are living in a world full of fire and ice. We suffer from the pain of desire and coldness. However, the fire and the ice really have some connection. The fire is the cause of the ice. Due to the desire for the world, we turn into cold attitude towards others. That is the connection between them.

I got this somewhere, here’s an interesting observation: “what happens when you put ice near fire? It melts into water. And what is water? It is the elixir of life. We all need it and without it, all life would die (end of the world). So if we can achieve a harmony between reason and emotion without ever letting either really take over, we become nurturing life-givers and protectors of life instead of its destroyers.”

It could be a poem about the life long struggle between Religion and Science. Religious zealouts and followers have always believed that the earth would end by fire and that the wicked would be burned in a hurry.

Science generally predicts that we will go through another ice age freezing all of us very slowly and methodically.

Just an idea.

This poem by Leigh Hunt is really a master piece. Very few people can die like him. He has grown old and has had many both good and bad experiences in life, but now he has had enough of it. His life seems to sink; he has lived his life and is both happy and satisfied. The poet looks back with a stoical smile with no regrets, no yearnings. He is quite, clam and self possessed to face his death –the ultimate courage.

And for the last one,I just read it so it will take a little time to digest.


Shilpi said...

Dear Suvro da,
I'll send a longer comment later. But with all my dithering and dilly-dallying who knows...so I'll send one bitty thing for now. In relation to the second poem, my favourite is the one which you compiled with your own line nestling in-between:
"I warmed my hands before the fire of life
It sinks and I am ready to depart.
Looking forward to quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over,
bearing no man in this world any grudge.
Though I hope to see my Pilot face to face
when I have crossed the bar..."
From "TMD"
It's become a holy chant of sorts which I ponder upon when in the bus and not dozing off.
Take care. Love and regards,

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

Thanks for sharing these gems. And for your comments.

Although I know that you detest comments like what I have written just now, I cannot find words when I am face to face with such profound words of wisdom presented so beautifully. Let me share a few lines that I read about life and death when I was young. Please tell me, if you know, who the author was.

A cowboy's prayer

A short life on the saddle, Oh Lord!
Not a long one by the fire.

Shilpi said...

Suvro da,
I think I finally get some bits of the third poem. That's been one of the reasons that I hadn't sent the "longer comment". I don't know whether I was reading some of the words wrong or whether I just had a blocked head (and always have a slightly blocked head) when it comes to poetry. I do love and quite very well understand Fafaia though, and it's one of the very few poems that I can rattle off in my head - if that's any consolation.

Do have a question though. No place for any genuine love between a man and a woman, then? Where would you fit that in I wonder...
Take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Oh, I'd be the last to say that such love could never happen, Shilpi, you know that. Only, it is rare to find indeed. More in books and myths than in flesh and blood, I mean... think of the short story by Jeffrey Archer called 'Old Love', and the poem titled 'The Fisherman mourned by his wife' by Patrick Fernando, and the way that the story called 'Bappaditya' in Raajkahini by Abanindranath Thakur ends. Or think of Remarque's 'The Three Comrades', or 'For whom the bell tolls'...

Shilpi said...

That's true though - I was thinking about it in terms of myths and stories and the rest as well. Didn't actually think about it in terms of real life, although I didn't realise that that's what I was doing. 'Old Love' did pop up in my head along with 'Natalie', 'Sheharzade and Shariyar', and some tales in no distinct order. Have to check a cross for the ones on your list - I haven't read any of them apart from 'Old Love' (and I couldn't find the poem on-line - otherwise I would have read that one at least before commenting). That's why I keep saying that I am not well-read, you know.

But surely it has to exist in real life. All the other ones exist - how come this one doesn't?! So much for now. I'll stop grumbling here. Do give some links for some more poems when you can or put up some of your favourite ones with some comments of your own. I rather liked this post and like re-reading your comments along with the poems...

Shilpi said...

It's almost the end of April Suvro da, and I know the weather is horrid but there hasn't been a 'Poem Post' this year and I'm missing one even though I've not read many poems in my life and understand only a very few poems. It would be very kind of you to put up a Poem-Post (with something 'like' Fafaia or some of your other favourites with some of your own comments or thoughts, yes?) sometime...

P.S: I still think you could have included that type/form of love alongwith the ones you listed. The type does have a space and place in the poem...

P.P.S: I don't see the bin. I made an error in the previous comment (not knowing where to put the 'only').