Poems, it seems to me, have the power to captivate, astound, inspire the human soul with a fervor that is not usually achieved by prose. The beautiful way an emotion is captured in just a few words is what makes it so powerful.
The following lines, from various poems, have been special to me at various stages in my life. I keep turning to them regularly for support, for inspiration, and occasionally, for help with introspection.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
While both of the above quotes from Frost’s poems remind me of where I want to be and where I have been, the following lines by Kipling help keep me grounded in the present reality.
IF – by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
I came across the following lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, when I stumbled across the Portrait Project. This beautifully reminds me of what is important, and how precious every single thing that I have is. Excellent for un-depressing myself.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
J. R. R. Tolkien was one mad hatter, if you ask me. (IMHO, you HAVE to be crazy, in order to write LOTR!) But his lines give me hope that even though I may not be far behind him on the bat-shit-crazy scale, I still just might have a chance to redeem myself.
All that glitter is not gold – J. R. R. Tolkein
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king
And last but not the least, a poem that scares me, inspires me, frees me and burdens me.
Invictus – by W. E. Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Tell me about your favourite poems. And how they affect you.