“Medicine, law, business, engineering; these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love; these are what we stay alive for.”

– Mr Keating

 

Earlier this week, as I fancied I found myself with enough time on my hands, I decided to head to 1950s Vermont and catch up with Robin Williams as Mr Keating, an English teacher on a journey to inspire his students through the medium of poetry. Aside from the aforementioned gem he offered up (which I somehow found myself in firm agreement with, despite paradoxically also being reminded I probably ought to have been studying), Dead Poets Society is unsurprisingly littered with snippets from great poetry as well.

Frost, Tennyson, Byron and Whitman, to name but a few, all get offered a moment of glory in the film, and while it is no doubt well deserved, I couldn’t help but wonder at all the other remarkable wordsmiths who could’ve too done well with a spot on centre-stage. To that end dear reader, I offer you a poem I stumbled across from a poet just as renowned in some parts of the world as those I’ve already mentioned. Though admittedly his work below is in a translated form, Keating’s themes of beauty, romance, love, are still all artfully present, and have been wonderfully woven together to form the first on his list of what makes life worth living: poetry.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

 

Morning Star

 

Leaving the pleasant company

of the sun and moon, and

the responsibility for

heralding the dawn?

 

For me, the company of stars

is not as good; better than

this height is the company

of lowly earth-dwellers.

 

This sky, my home

but uninhabited;

dawn’s tattered clothes,

my burial shroud.

 

My fate,

life and death every day,

sipping morning wine from

the hands of death’s cupbearer.

 

This service, this respect,

this stature – worthless!

Much better than this

brief limelight is the darkness.

 

If it were in my power,

I wouldn’t be a star;

I’d have loved to be

a pearl in a river’s depths.

 

If I get afraid of

the always-struggling waves,

I’d leave the waters to be part of

someone’s necklace instead.

 

It’s joy being part of an ornament

of someone beautiful, or as

a gem in the crown

of a royal consort.

 

When fate smiled on

a piece of stone,

it became a diamond

on Solomon’s ring.

 

But these things of pomp

do perish in the world,

just as how

the rarest gems do.

 

Life, in real, goes on

unacquainted with death.

What’s the point of a life that

must face demands of death?

 

If this is the fate of

being a star in the universe,

why shouldn’t I fall down

on some flower as dew?

 

Why not a shining mote in

the gold dust on someone’s forehead,

or a spark in the sighs

of an oppressed human being?

 

Or remain suspended

in the eyelashes as a tear,

or drip from the eyes

of the wife:

 

The wife whose husband is

off to a battlefield in armor,

for the love

of his country.

 

the woman

who reflects hope and

despair, whose diffident silence

puts speech to shame.

 

May she have patience, draw strength

from her husband’s wishes;

may her modesty get

the power to speak.

 

On the day of separation,

may her ashen face get color,

and may her beauty in sadness

make their parting more attractive.

 

However much she controls,

wish I, as a tear, drip down,

get mixed with dust, turn immortal,

and show Love’s grief to the world.

 

– Iqbal

 

 

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