For Life I Had Never Cared Greatly

Though I can’t completely identify with Hardy’s "For Life I Had Never Cared Greatly," it certainly does ring true in some aspects. Since it was written nearly a hundred years ago and still describes the general pattern of my life, I wonder if it depicts an archetypal pattern:

FOR LIFE I HAD NEVER CARED GREATLY
For Life I had never cared greatly,
As worth a man's while;
Peradventures unsought,
Peradventures that finished in nought,
Had kept me from youth and through manhood till lately
Unwon by its style.

In earliest years--why I know not -
I viewed it askance;
Conditions of doubt,
Conditions that leaked slowly out,
May haply have bent me to stand and to show not
Much zest for its dance.

With symphonies soft and sweet colour
It courted me then,
Till evasions seemed wrong,
Till evasions gave in to its song,
And I warmed, until living aloofly loomed duller
Than life among men.

Anew I found nought to set eyes on,
When, lifting its hand,
It uncloaked a star,
Uncloaked it from fog-damps afar,
And showed its beams burning from pole to horizon
As bright as a brand.

And so, the rough highway forgetting,
I pace hill and dale
Regarding the sky,
Regarding the vision on high,
And thus re-illumed have no humour for letting
My pilgrimage fail.

In college it was definitely cool to be “cool,? to talk as if life meant little and nothing was too important. It certainly wasn’t cool to care too much about a girl, or at least to let her know that you cared a lot.

In the crowd I ran with, a certain sarcasm was de rigueur, and sarcasm came easily, probably too easily, for me. Confronted with the turbulent 60’s, my idealism easily turned to cynicism, and after a tour in Vietnam and a year working as a caseworker, I became even more cynical.

I don’t think it was until I was 30, after I had my first child, that I rediscovered the joy in my life, as if I had returned to a childhood. Sharing a child’s joy for life leaves little room for cynicism, or other such nonsense.

Rediscovering nature, though, particularly re-connecting with hiking, as “I pace hill and dale/ Regarding the sky,? did even more to restore my “vision on high? and left me more enamored of life than ever.

As I age, life no longer seems so much a journey as an arrival. No longer worried about some illusory “future? that never appears, I’m pleased to experience today, right now. And that’s made all the difference, as recorded on these pages.

One thought on “For Life I Had Never Cared Greatly

  1. Years ago (late 1960s?), JUDE THE OBSCURE was on television. All I can remember clearly is the image of a solitary man walking in a dark blue night and seeing a huge church or maybe it was a college. When I returned to college in my early 30s in order to finish what I had started in the late 60s, I majored in English Literature and minored in Art, although I had begun college as an Art major. At that time, as now, I was walking regularly and appreciated Thomas Hardy’s descriptions of solitary women and men “pacing hill and dale.” It seemed that I was walking along with them. In my college classes, we read Thomas Hardy’s novels. Thank you so much for these Thomas Hardy poems which remind me why I, along with many of us, am glad to be alive despite these dark times. I continue to enjoy your photos and writing, and I like the blue flowers to the left as I type these words.

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