Tuesday, 15 January 2013

'To all that love the far and blue'

To all that love the far and blue:
Whether, from dawn to eve, on foot
The fleeing corners ye pursue,
Nor weary of the vain pursuit;
Or whether down the singing stream,
Paddle in hand, jocund ye shoot,
To splash beside the splashing bream
Or anchor by the willow root:

Or, bolder, from the narrow shore
Put forth, that cedar ark to steer,
Among the seabirds and the roar
Of the great sea, profound and clear;
Or, lastly if in heart ye roam,
Not caring to do else, and hear,
Safe sitting by the fire at home,
Footfalls in Utah or Pamere:

Though long the way, though hard to bear
The sun and rain, the dust and dew;
Though still attainment and despair
Inter the old, despoil the new;
There shall at length, be sure, O friends,
Howe'er ye steer, whate'er ye do -
At length, and at the end of ends,
The golden city come in view.

My favourite thing about this poem is its evocative first line - Robert Louis Stevenson did write wonderful opening lines, as a quick perusal of this list will demonstrate!  I think it would be fair to say that this poem is in his most 'rare and fair romantic strain' (on which see 'In Praise of Story').  The last verse reminds me quite a bit of John Masefield's poem 'The Seekers', which also features a golden city and 'sun and rain, dust and dew' - but this poem is certain where Masefield's is only hopeful.  (Wikipedia tells me that Masefield was a admirer of Stevenson, so perhaps this is a case of direct influence, conscious or unconscious; exploration via Google could not provide me with exact dates for the publication of either poem).

Oh, and I don't know if I have any readers in Utah, but if so, I hope you appreciate it being namechecked here as an archetypal distant, exotic place...


Anonymous said...

As always, beautiful insights and marvelous selection of writings and graphics. Your blog is a rare and inspiring solace to so many because of the beauty you are uniquely able to retrieve for your readers. Thank you.

Clerk of Oxford said...

Thank you for the kind words. I was thinking as I was putting this post together that "all that love the far and blue" is a good description of the readers I write for, and it forms a kind of bond between us all, even though we may never meet.

Anonymous said...

There is as well this one that is about the far-farers.

The broad sun,
The bright day:
White sails
On the blue bay:
The far-farers
Draw away.

Light the fires
And close the door.
To the old homes,
To the loved shore,
The far-farers
Return no more.

Clerk of Oxford said...

Interesting! I had overlooked that poem, but it makes a good counterpoint to this one. Stevenson writes so well about travelling, and travelling as a metaphor for life...