Arthur Hugh Clough – “Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth”
Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!
A good poem to read after finishing my taxes.
Really, though, it’s appropriate for a number of reasons for me (and those I love) right now. Can a poem like this ever not be relevant?
This has a certain – what? didactic? tone to it that still manages not to sound simply like a comfort poem. As much as it is a poem about resisting pessimism and embracing optimism, it’s also a poem about shifting perspectives, that things can look differently depending on your outlook and attitude.
My favorite line: “If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars.” That pretty much sums up the poem. Certainty is illusory; but the poem is not just saying that. The images reinforce the title of this poem by suggesting that our own effort, journey, and vision can lead to the light of success.