Harry Epworth Allen (1894-1958), "Summer" (1940)
The theme of this "No Escape" series of posts is: "Wherever you go, there you are." As I have noted before, this notion is not a contemporary pop psychology platitude.
"Ambition, avarice, irresolution, fear, and lust do not leave us when we change our country . . . Someone said to Socrates that a certain man had grown no better by his travels. 'I should think not,' he said, 'he took himself along with him.'"
Michel de Montaigne, "Of Solitude," The Complete Essays of Montaigne (translated by Donald Frame) (Stanford University Press 1958).
Two centuries or so later Samuel Johnson retraced Montaigne's steps:
"The general remedy of those, who are uneasy without knowing the cause, is change of place; they are willing to imagine that their pain is the consequence of some local inconvenience, and endeavour to fly from it, as children from their shadows; always hoping for more satisfactory delight from every new scene, and always returning home with disappointments and complaints. . . . [H]e, who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing, but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove."
Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, Number 6 (April 7, 1750).
Yes, yes, well said, sirs. But easier said than done.
Harry Epworth Allen, "The Caravan"
Never would there be lives enough for all
The comely places --
Glimpsed from a car, a train, or loitered past --
That lift their faces
To be admired, murmuring 'Live with me.'
House with a well,
Or a ghost; by a stream; on a hill; in a hollow: breathing
Fresh paint, or simply a prayer to be kept warm,
Each casts her spell.
Life, claims each, will look different from my windows,
Your furniture be
Transformed in these rooms, your chaos sorted out here.
Ask for the key.
Walk in, and take me. Then you shall live again.
. . . Nor lives enough
For all the fair ones, dark ones, chestnut-haired ones
Promising love --
I'll be your roof, your hearth, your paradise orchard
With puritan scents -- rosemary, thyme, verbena,
With midnight musk,
Or the plaintive, memoried sweetness tobacco-plants
Exhale at dusk,
They lure the footloose traveller to dream of
One fixed demesne,
The stay-at-home to look for his true self elsewhere.
I will remain
Your real, your ideal property. Possess me.
Be born again.
If only there could be lives enough, you're wishing? . . .
For one or two
Of all the possible loves a dozen lifetimes
Would hardly do:
Oak learns to be oak through a rooted discipline.
Of place or person is chiefly a glamour cast by
In growing your self. Rebirth needs more than a change of
Flesh or address.
Switch love, move house -- you will soon be back where you started,
On the same ground,
With a replica of the old romantic phantom
That will confound
Your need for roots with a craving to be unrooted.
C. Day Lewis, The Gate and Other Poems (1962).
Harry Epworth Allen, "A Derbyshire Farmstead"