Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Escape, Part Five: "Some Unhaunted Desert"

For this visit to the realm of the ideal place, a place that always comes up against the "wherever you go, there you are" problem, I wish to consider a poem written by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (1565-1601).  Caught up in the wars and court intrigues of Elizabethan times, Devereux had ample reason to long for a simpler, less dangerous life and land.

Happy were he could finish forth his fate
   In some unhaunted desert, most obscure
From all societies, from love and hate
   Of worldly folk; then might he sleep secure;
Then wake again, and give God ever praise,
   Content with hips and haws and bramble-berry;
In contemplation spending all his days,
   And change of holy thoughts to make him merry;
Where, when he dies, his tomb may be a bush,
Where harmless robin dwells with gentle thrush.

"Some unhaunted desert":  that phrase alone is worth a lifetime of writing, as far as I am concerned.  (But perhaps I am easily pleased -- "or else I'm getting soft," to quote Bob Dylan.)

Alas, Devereux's wish was not to be fulfilled:  he was beheaded on February 25, 1601, for his alleged involvement in a plot against Elizabeth.  His fate certainly adds poignancy to the poem, especially to: "then might he sleep secure."


Michael Gilleland said...

"Some unhaunted desert" is indeed excellent, but I also like "Content with hips and haws and bramble-berry."

Stephen Pentz said...

Michael: Thank you very much for visiting, and for your comment. I agree with you -- in fact, the poem has so many nice lines that it is one of those that you automatically memorize after you've read it a few times. (Although this phenomenon is fading with age!) Thanks again.

Hydriotaphia said...

'Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft' was the full original quote I believe from Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks'.

Stephen Pentz said...

Hydriotaphia: Thank you very much for visiting and for commenting. Yes, indeed: as you know, the line comes from "If You See Her, Say Hello" -- my favorite song on a wonderful album. (Do we still call them "albums"? Well, it was an "album" way back when I bought it.) Thank you again.