(Poem #972) The Beginning
Some day I shall rise and leave my friends And seek you again through the world's far ends, You whom I found so fair (Touch of your hands and smell of your hair!), My only god in the days that were. My eager feet shall find you again, Though the sullen years and the mark of pain Have changed you wholly; for I shall know (How could I forget having loved you so?), In the sad half-light of evening, The face that was all my sunrising. So then at the ends of the earth I'll stand And hold you fiercely by either hand, And seeing your age and ashen hair I'll curse the thing that once you were, Because it is changed and pale and old (Lips that were scarlet, hair that was gold!), And I loved you before you were old and wise, When the flame of youth was strong in your eyes, - And my heart is sick with memories.
Like Shakespeare, Brooke dwelt in endless detail on love, time and their interrelationships, though his stance was often diametrically opposed to the former's - And seeing your age and ashen hair I'll curse the thing that once you were, Because it is changed and pale and old is a far cry from "Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth". However, to dismiss today's poem as a disappointed turning-away from an old and no-longer-attractive love is to oversimplify it. "The Beginning" is far more complex than that, capturing the conflict of the poet's emotions as life clashes against memory to the latter's detriment. There is also the distinct impression that the poet wishes he didn't feel the way he did, as opposed to merely wishing that his beloved were young and fair forever, which makes me appreciate the poem a lot more than I do some of Brooke's others.  which is not an entirely unfair judgement - several of Brooke's poems *do* reduce to that sentiment Today's poem is also interesting in its use of tenses, ranging through both past and future, from "you whom I found so fair" to "I'll curse the thing that once you were". This adds to its richness - the poet is not simply lamenting the vanished "flame of youth", he is *anticipating* lamenting it, knowing both that he is doomed to search for his lost love, and that his search shall end in pain. And finally, he drops into present tense to wrap the poem up - but his heartsickness is caused by an imagined future, not a remembered past. The verse fits the contents well - just flowing enough to carry along the sense of reverie, just broken enough to reveal the pain and passion with which that reverie is fraught. The parenthetical lines and the short third line are used to good effect to punctuate and structure the poem's shifting tenses, as are the explicit temporal references with which the poem is laced. This is not, perhaps, as pleasing or as powerful a poem as some of Brooke's, but it has a definite beauty to it. martin Links: Biography: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/7086/brookebionote.htm Brooke poems on Minstrels: Poem #514 "The Chilterns" Poem #280 "The Soldier" Poem #589 "Sonnet Reversed" Poem #847 "On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess" And the referenced Shakespeare poem: Poem #219 "Full many a glorious morning have I seen"