I first stumbled across this poem in high school English class and upon reading it for the first time, I thought, wow, I know exactly what this guy means. Though, this was before writing became a deeply important part of my life. I mean, I’ve loved reading and writing since before I could properly catch a ball and I’ve always enjoyed it immensely, but I didn’t take it seriously then.
However, now that writing has become such and integral part of my identity, this poem wriggles to the forefront of my mind once more.
In the first few lines, the narrator reveals a fear that he may die before he has the chance to achieve all he wants to achieve as a writer. I share similar sentiments, but not because I fear death. I fear doubt. Self-doubt has always been my greatest enemy. I’ll write something and think it’s amazing one moment, only to read it again later and find that it’s not worth the time I put into it. Consequently, my hard drive is filled with unfinished stories that I can’t bare to look at half the time, let alone finish. It’s sad because deep down, I feel that as long as you have something to say, you should say it. If it comes out wrong, there’s alway the chance to fix it. I don’t know why I still have so much trouble putting those thoughts into action, though.
Anyway, the narrator then goes on to talk about all the things he may not get to see or do and I’m sure that’s something we all think about once in a while, but it’s the last few lines that jerk really on my heartstrings:
“…then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think”
The words echo with so much loneliness and remind me that we are little specks of dust on this large ball of blue. I’ve written before about feeling as if I can’t reach anyone and it’s not about fame or recognition or anything like that. It’s about leaving a mark; it’s about knowing that something I’ve done meant something to someone. That’s the only way I know how to escape the loneliness.
And then, the final line, “Till love and fame to nothingness do sink” rings as a stark reminder that in the end, none of it matters – neither fame nor love. I don’t know that I entirely agree with that. Fame, I do think, is meaningless, but love? I don’t think love can be meaningless when it’s not really about you to begin with. The love you give remains, etched into the hearts of those you’ve loved, even after you’re gone.
Still, I am sometimes stricken by the idea that it could all end in a moment and everything I have to leave behind will be incomplete – my stories, my career, even my love.