In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “By Heart.”
You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind?
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young…
– A E Houseman
I’ve been obsessed with the ‘Tomorrow’ series by John Marsden for over a decade. I’ve read the books, I’ve listened over and over to the audiobooks. It’s my favourite series ever. That poem (or I guess, a portion of it) was in one of the books, and it’s stuck by me ever since I first came across it. Firstly, it’s such a beautifully written piece, there’s no denying that. But secondly, it really speaks to me, particularly as the poem was originally based on soldiers in World War 1, and I found it via a book series based around a fictional war. It reflects the bravery that soldiers have…a bravery I can scarcely wrap my head around. More than that, it speaks of an attitude most of us have towards dying. It’s always surprised me when older people say that aren’t afraid of death, or they’d welcome it (and mean it). I know some of the time it’s due to their faith and belief in what’s coming next…something I don’t really have. I mean I have hopes and wishes of what it will be but no faith it will eventuate that way. But to hear someone say they’d welcome death in a genuine, not-depressed way…I just can’t imagine how to feel like that. Death is such a final thing. You leave your body, you are no longer part of the world, you no longer exist. How does anyone welcome that? How does anyone have so much faith in whatever belief they hold that they aren’t even a teensy bit afraid of what will happen? This is why the poem speaks to me. It puts it into a perspective I’d never previously thought about. “But young men think it is/and we were young”. Maybe I just can’t imagine it because I’m just too young? Maybe it takes decades of living to appreciate the end of it? After all, the only young people who I’ve heard genuinely say they’d welcome death are those who have suffered through horrendous loss or disease…those that mentally age us beyond anything else. This is why I’ve memorised that poem, and why I hold it so dear. I helps me make sense of it all. Funny how three short lines can have such a profound impact.