Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I've received a request for a poem by Sara Teasdale, a new poet to me, so here she goes:
If you have forgotten water lilies floating
On a dark lake among mountains in the afternoon shade,
If you have forgotten their wet, sleepy fragrance,
Then you can return and not be afraid.
But if you remember, then turn away forever
To the plains and the prairies where pools are far apart,
There you will not come at dusk on closing water lilies,
And the shadow of mountains will not fall on your heart.
The speaker is warning us not to return to an experience of beauty, but to instead move on to a wholly different place. Why? If we know of something beautiful and peaceful, why should we not go back to that experience?
Perhaps it is because we can never recreate our original connection with an experience; it exists only briefly and only in that original time. Beauty is transient; we cannot sustain a connection with it, but we can find it again somewhere else if we move on. If we think we can be fulfilled by staying in the same place, trying to renew the same connection with the same experiences, then we are fooling ourselves. We must move on and grow or become stagnant.
We can, of course, revisit places of beauty, and perhaps appreciate them in a different way. But since the original experience alters us, even if slightly, we will never feel it exactly the same way we did the first time. This is a truth of the human condition. It forces us to change, to move on, and to grow.