For the past six weeks, I have been writing Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. This wasn’t a selection of the world’s greatest, most influential poets. Rather, these were the poets who have touched me personally.
Due to the alphabetical nature of the challenge, it meant leaving some poets out and actively seeking out fresh sources of inspiration to fill those usual tricky letters along the road.
However, as I researched my list of poets more thoroughly, it became alarmingly clear that too many of these poets had taken their lives or had succumbed to some tragic accident. Indeed, that too many poets died young.
Throughout the challenge I was haunted by a poem we had studied at school: AE Housman’s: To An Athlete Dying Young. I have posted it here for your consideration and ask that you substitute “athlete” with “poet”.
To An Athlete Dying Young
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.
A.E. Housman, 1859 – 1936
As a community, we need to look out for one another and reach out with love to the broken bird. Shelter, nurture the vulnerable, helping them to regain their own strength to return to the sky. While we can not offer professional mental health support or advice, I have to believe that love, acceptance and being part of community has to be some kind of help. Well, it’s doing a lot for me!
As poet John Donne wrote:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
Prior to undergoing this challenge, I’d never considered “Poet” a dangerous occupation. However, I am starting to wonder whether Stunt Pilots might have been survival rates.
It certainly reminds me of the need for balance. For taking the time to smell and inhale the roses and not just write about them. That as much as life needs to be lived, we also need to put down our pens, laptops and tools of trade and walk in the great outdoors.
Love & best wishes,