Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 400
February 12, 2001


"The Ancient of Days" by William Blake

One Life, Three Poems

Now at an age when reflecting on life is more years-encompassing, I find an intriguing shift in the poetry that has, over the years, fed my spirit.

With copious energy bubbling forth during former days of youth, I seldom felt the limitation of the absence of social status, money and education. That unbounded confidence in the future was well expressed in the marching cadence of William Ernest Henley's "Invictus."

I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Mid-life brought a more sober assessment of my journey. I humorously noted that, single, I could toss everything into a suitcase and be on my way. Married, it meant three well-packed suitcases. The addition of children and furniture turned moving into a well-planned campaign.  Vocational possibilities also narrowed as educational choices were made. With curtailed mobility and narrowed vocational choice, I came to appreciate Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." In each act of choosing, there is also a closing.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Now, the poet Theodore Roethke best captures my mood in "The Waking."

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

The slow movement towards death, a continuing trustfulness of life (even with the consequences of multitudinous past choices), and a sense that those things most deeply learned-those most deeply etched in my mind and soul-have come from that which I did not plan and would not have wanted to experience. Rilke helps me to give order and meaning to these days.

Although each poem reflects my life at different points, each still has an essential truth. I may not be the master of my fate as I once thought, but I am the master of how I respond to that which confronts me. I am even more aware of doors closing with each opening. I continue to live my days in trust.

Grateful I am for these poets who touched my mind and helped shape my days.

--Robert H. Tucker
12 February 2001
© Robert H. Tucker, 2001.

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