02 July 2005

The Way to Hell Is Paved With Well Meaning Artsy Types

Second thoughts on that title - no, maybe it's not. Having to walk across the ribs of the silly blighters on the way to Hell might be deemed a pleasure, consequently unconducive to the required atmosphere.


I have to write this post sort of backwards, so bear with me:

Young and Old
Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there
The spent and maimed among;
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.
Now the first half of this is pretty famous - the second however, not so much. Lets be honest, the second verse smacks either of the crass indifference of youth ('get back in yer box, Grandad') or is an expression of depression and frailty and loss by a poet who feels his age, feels lonely and in a sense abandoned.

It doesn't really matter which way Kingsley meant it, or how old he was when he wrote it - there are alternate meanings to that second verse, depending on the age and experience of the reader, but if you are noticing your own mortality, the meaning is very clear.

If you were a bit creaky, feeling the loss of speed and the indifference of society, wouldn't that second verse be a bit of a gut punch?

How about you're a widow or widower with no-one you love at home, your evenings all silence?

How about you are sitting in the bloody doctor's surgery because you or your equally elderly husband or wife are sick?

Yup. The crass ignorance of the well meaning airy-fairy types knows no bounds. In our Doctor's waiting room (I was there two days ago with this vertigo thing) is a lovely, gatefold pamphlet in solid pink card. The front says it is called 'Poems In The Waiting Room' and is sponsored by The Beatrice Trust, The Poetry Society and the Arts Council.

All these organisations involved, and yet nobody noticed that when you open the damn thing, in the middle of the middle section, slap bang centre and the first thing you see, is this depressive work of Kingsley's own personal torture which effectively says "If you're old and frail, give up, crawl off home and wait to die, mate". What a lovely thought to keep you going until your appointment.

Nice one - very clever - not. Don't people just make you wonder what planet you're on, some days?

10 comments:

RC said...
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RC said...

Maybe he was having a bad day when he wrote that, but we will never know.

Hi, Michele sent me!

MW skipped you by accident, so I skipped him to visit your blog first, then I'll visit his.

I hope you have a nice weekend.

Maria said...

As a person rapidly approaching 70, I find the poem to be too true. To think someone would put it in a pamphlet in a Doctor's office is mind-boggling.

I am here by way of Michele and I have marked your blog as one I need to come back to and explore more.

panthergirl said...

I don't read it that way at all! I think it is an ode to a lasting marriage or relationship.... that even when everything around you has aged, including yourself, you go home and see a face that you have loved ever since you were young.

Maybe it's just the hopeless romantic in me? I'll go home and see the face of a dog that needs to be walked.

Here via Michele today...

Lora said...

Cherly I really didn't read it that way.

I see the whole poem as encouraging you to seek that which you find meaningful. The first verse expresses the joy of exploring associated with youth. The second verse expresses the comfort of a home and a good love after exploring losses it's thrill. I see this as wisdom.

I do hope that they are able to do something to help your vertigo.

Here via Michele's

Cheryl said...

Hi Lori
Thanks - I am so glad you and Panthergirl have such lovely, optimistic outlooks.
I just cant see how being told to 'take your place with the spent and maimed' can be sweet or romantic.
Why do they have a different place from 'society'?

terrilynn said...

> Don't people just make you wonder what planet you're on, some days?

Most days, truth be told. Our standard answer around here to the question "why do people do (whatever)?" is because people are stupid.

We laugh so we won't cry.

doris said...

Sometimes the well meaning don't see the wood for the trees!

I'd have read the poem in the same way as you, even though I can see there is a beautiful side it just doesn't sing out as loud to me as the you're old, dead and done message!

It comes down it appropriateness. It would be appropriate to have this poem in a different setting so that we can enjoy, ponder or reflect on its beautiful poignancy. To have it in a place where there is a lot of stress may not help.

The Beatrice Trust have been doing this for some years now and the poems I have seen before have been upbeat, enhancing and nicely distracting.

panthergirl said...

See, I saw the "take your place with the spent and maimed" as a joke. Shows you how twisted I am! ;)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting today!

Cheryl said...

Twisted? No!
Not as sour or cynical as me, perhaps.....
Thanks for dropping back in!