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Collected Poems


page 58


This poem was first published in 1938, and has for some years been out of print. It was written during the winter of 1935. The world was then recovering from the worst economic depression it could remember, and the poem bears the imprint of that period. For the benefit of those critics who have discussed it as a satirical poem I should like to say that I have always thought of the satire as being somewhat incidental to the main theme, which emerges in the last three sections, and which will, I hope, be found to have a relationship with the two later poems.

The Voyage:
This was written in 1948. The broadcast presentation of the poem (in a slightly different version) was introduced with the words: This is a poem about faith, and works. In particular, it is about what Keats called "Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. …" It is a romantic poem against Romanticism.'

The reference, towards the end, to hand-weaving may seem obscure. I borrowed it from an account I was given of the Commander of one of our New Zealand warships, who had a hand-loom in his cabin, and worked on it in his spare time. It suited my purpose to use this as a symbol.

Since writing the poem I have come across two interesting passages, quoted by Geoffrey Grigson in an article in the English Listener on 'Images in English Romantic Painting'. One is from A. H. Clough:

'Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.'

The other is from Melville's White Jacket:

'The port we sail from is far astern and though far out of sight of land for ages and ages we continue to sail with sealed orders and our last destination remains a secret to ourselves and our officers. And yet our final haven was predestined ere we stepped from the stocks of creation.'

But I abjure the implications of the last sentence.

To a Friend in the Wilderness:
This poem, which was written in 1949, has been broadcast in the same form in which it appears here.


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