Times in the Appalachian High Country
Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”
It is now 1979-80. I have finished my course work for the PhD and am serving as Temporary Lecturer in English at the University of Georgia while doing the research for my dissertation on the influence of the English Reformers on Edmund Spenser in Book V of the Fairie Queene. So perhaps it is not surprising that the first poem of that year was a long narrative in Spenserian Stanza, “The True History of the Holy Graal.” It is far too long for a blog entry, but I assure you it is very good. (You can read it in Stars through the Clouds, my collected poetry, available from Lantern Hollow Press.) The next poem continued one of the prominent themes of the previous year.
TIMES IN THE APPALACHIAN HIGH COUNTRY
There is a time for walking and breathing hard
From the work of pushing ancient mountains down
Until they stand beneath your weary feet.
There is the time for stopping to wipe the fog
From off your glasses so you can see more fog,
The dim walls on your left, and on your right
The sun-bright moving shadows of the mist.
There is the time when unexpectedly
The wind whips ’round a corner, and the fog
Cowers before it, breaks its ranks, and runs,
Falls back, regroups, and thus becomes a cloud,
Leaving the sun unchallenged in its claim
To rule the island peaks. There is a time
For stopping to drink from the last spring that runs
Before there is no mountain left to gather
The moisture from the sky and send it down
To fill the running stream-beds far below.
There is the time you say, “This is the top.”
But you will say that several times before
There’s finally nowhere left to go but down.
But it seems false to say there is a time
For standing all alone upon the peak,
Not under, now, so much as in the sky.
It makes no difference that your watch-hand still
Moves like it always has. If this is time,
It is a time that’s like no other time.
The watch ticks on, but leaves us far behind,
Which is why we catch up to it with a jerk
And barely can get back to camp by nightfall.
Is it because they’ve seen so much of time
That they can almost lift us out of it–
Does it grow thinner, flowing o’er their backs
The way the wind does, so there’s less of it
To shield us from the blazing depths of heaven–
Have they seen something through it that we haven’t?
The mountains will remain when we have gone
Back down beneath the clouds, but we will take
Our glimpses of the mystery back with us
To prod us into poems or metaphysics,
Or merely silent thinking by the fire.
Meanwhile, the stones are silent in the starlight
Until there is a time we can return.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. And don’t forget Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters.
Donald T. Williams, PhD