In a previous post, I suggested that Louis MacNeice regained his poetic form in the collections published between 1957 (his fiftieth year) and 1963 (the year of his death). That post featured poems from Visitations, which was published in 1957. The following poem is from Solstices, which came out in 1961.
The title of the poem has its source in the first two lines of Canto I of Dante's Inferno: "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura." One translation (out of hundreds): "Midway in the journey of our life/I found myself in a dark wood."
A house can be haunted by those who were never there
If there was where they were missed. Returning to such
Is it worse if you miss the same or another or none?
The haunting anyway is too much.
You have to leave the house to clear the air.
A life can be haunted by what it never was
If that were merely glimpsed. Lost in the maze
That means yourself and never out of the wood
These days, though lost, will be all your days;
Life, if you leave it, must be left for good.
And yet for good can be also where I am,
Stumbling among dark tree-trunks, should I meet
One sudden shaft of light from the hidden sky
Or, finding bluebells bathe my feet,
Know that the world, though more, is also I.
Perhaps suddenly too I strike a clearing and see
Some unknown house -- or was it mine? -- but now
It welcomes whom I miss in welcoming me;
The door swings open and a hand
Beckons to all the life my days allow.
Louis MacNeice, Solstices (1961).