Not to Yield

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Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tennyson was twenty-four when he wrote his famous poem about the aged Ulysses. He foresaw the old man he became, as famed as his hero, and projected the end as he was just beginning.

All times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea

I am no Ulysses; I am no Tennyson. I am only a man who perhaps like them cannot rest from travel. It seems that’s what I do; it’s what I’ve done…with those that loved me, for a while, and many seas vexed.

I can list the moorings, the stopovers: Pittsburgh, Maine, Dublin, New York, Barcelona, Singapore, Melbourne, Paris, Tokyo, back to New York, San Francisco. And now Boston soon.

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I have not become a name. I am only another Bozo on the Bus, as my friend Greg likes to say. Yet…

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

My margins do fade forever, margins that separate the chapters of my life, one following another—too frequently it sometimes feels.

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A new chapter is soon beginning: I hadn’t expected it; I hadn’t wanted it. I resisted it when I thought there was a kernel of hope that the old chapter could continue. Someone else decided it was over.

Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things

I’m looking forward to that bringer of new things. Age doesn’t diminish the quest for new. Perhaps it even enhances that desire, speeds it up. There is less time left to enjoy all the new things that may come my way. The end is closer than the beginning.

I wish my wife hadn’t ended our marriage. I feel pathetic writing that, given all I experienced, what I sacrificed, how my life’s been changed. It would have been a grander plan to enjoy new things together. But little remained, and in the end nothing remained.

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

I do yearn in desire. Last night at dinner Adam asked me if I wanted a new relationship in my life. I’m unsure. I do yearn for the warmth of touch, of intimacy. It wasn’t there anymore before. Desire was removed in my marriage. Yet, to risk love again is to open myself to potentially much joy and potentially much pain. They seem to come in equal measure, for me.

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Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

My Ayurvedic horoscope foretells spirituality and service to others as my next phase, beginning January, when I move East. I like that, and whether it’s a prediction or a wish, it doesn’t matter: some work of noble note. It’s a lodestar.

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Come, my friends,

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

I’m sailing to sunrise—maybe a more appropriate destination. I love that my college’s symbol is the sun: Bowdoin sitting on the coast of Maine being the first college the sun’s rays touch each morning. It’s a warming, heartening thought. Despite the cold and snow and dark Novembers, Massachusetts will suit me. I feel it. It’s a return to where I’ve been happy.

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It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

The journey out continues. May the gulfs recede. May I reach the Happy Isles.

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