Saturday, June 18, 2011
To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence
From Robert J. O'Hara
Michael, the delightful Macaulay post about "blubbering for imaginary beings" and his exclamation "Think what it would be to be assured that the inhabitants of Monomotapa would weep over one's writings Anno Domini 4551!" put me in mind of the poem below by James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915). I always take note of people addressing the distant futureMacaulay imagines writing something now that people would read in 2700 years and so look back to us. Flecker tried to do just that, addressing himself to another poet like him 1000 years in the future. It's not the best poem in the world, but I like the theme; and it has a Homer reference that links it to Macaulay:
"To a poet a thousand years hence"There a quite nice musical setting by Gerald Finzi. The whole doesn't appear to be online, but you can hear a clip here:http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/tw.asp?w=W1296&t=GBAJY8101501&al=CDH55084.
I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.
I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.
But have you wine and music still,
And statues and bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?
How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.
O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.
Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.