Friday, June 16, 2017

"Waiting" -- a poem and a personal postscript

First there is this excerpt from the PoemHunter website:

John Burroughs was an American naturalist and essayist important in the evolution of the U.S. conservation movement. According to biographers at the American Memory project at the Library of Congress, John Burroughs was the most important practitioner after Henry David Thoreau of that especially American literary genre, the nature essay. By the turn of the 20th century he had become a virtual cultural institution in his own right: the Grand Old Man of Nature at a time when the American romance with the idea of nature, and the American conservation movement, had come fully into their own. His extraordinary popularity and popular visibility were sustained by a prolific stream of essay collections, beginning with Wake-Robin in 1871.

Read the rest of the article about John Burroughs via this link.

And here is "Waiting," a poem by John Burroughs:

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
     Nor care for wind nor tide nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
     For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays—
     For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways
     And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
     The friends I seek are seeking me,
No wind can drive my bark astray
     Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
     I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown,
     And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own, and draw
     The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
     Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
     The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
     Can keep my own away from me.

Finally, here is a personal postscript:

The poem above, one that I discovered at The Writer's Almanac website this morning, reminds me that I am waiting for something significant, and I must admit that I both dread and celebrate its arrival. In some ways, ones that I cannot articulate, I am a bit like Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot; like those two lost souls, I am waiting for God knows what, and I fill my days with tragicomic diversions as I hope Godot, whoever he might actually be, will show up soon and give me some answers. In other ways, perhaps somewhat more in line with what Burroughs is suggesting (at least as I subjectively and perhaps incorrectly read the poem), I am waiting a bit like Henry David Thoreau, looking for peace, harmony, and profound answers to simple questions within the vast ineffable majesty of Nature. But, in the final analysis, the poem reminds me uncomfortably that I am more than a little bit like Job in the Hebrew scriptures; I am waiting for answers to questions that I probably should not have asked. I will, I think, look more closely at the story of Job even though I know that I will be both comforted and frightened by what I find. Stay tuned for my discoveries and responses to one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible.

Now, though, I turn everything over to you.

Tell me what you think of the Burroughs poem. Perhaps my "reading" is skewed and confused because of my subjectivity, which is nothing new for me, so I ask you for your feedback. Speak to me about the poem, other portions of this posting, or anything else that suits your fancy. I'm in the mood for a good discussion. Let's begin.


  1. For some reason, Tim, waiting is hard for a lot of people. Waiting of any kind thwarts us on a very basic level, so we don't care for it. And yet, calm, reflective 'stepping back' can be helpful for the soul, at least in my opinion.

    1. Margot, here is what Frank Wilson noted at his blog where he linked to my posting: Best to start each day with that line of the Psalmist: "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Frank has it exactly right (again).

  2. Tim,

    I have heard of Burroughs but I know little about him. Is there any particular work of his that would be a good introduction?

    Thanks for introducing him.

    The poem strikes me as Eastern in philosophy: things will happen when they will and trying to force them will probably impede them. The first stanza provides the overall theme of the poem, or so it seems to me.

  3. i have four of his books of essays and have yet to open them... but i've read him enough in other sources to admire and attempt to emulate him... he's one of the influences that led me to study Zen...
    his basic philosophy is fairly well distributed, culturally speaking; BE HERE NOW is another way of looking at it... CARPE DIEM, also... LIVE IN THE MOMENT is another... and so it goes...

    1. forgot to mention his connection to John Muir: both inspirational and sane persons that should be better known to all... imo...

  4. Fred, you ask for recommendations. I defer to Mudpuddle.
    Mudpuddle, Fred awaits your recommendations. How does carpe diem match up with waiting? Aren't those in conflict? Just wondering.

  5. well, yeah; forgive me, i just get carried away... besides it's one of the few latin phrases i know...