Octave XI – Edward Arlington Robinson
STILL through the dusk of dead, blank-legended,
And unremunerative years we search
To get where life begins, and still we groan
Because we do not find the living spark
Where no spark ever was; and thus we die,
Still searching, like poor old astronomers
Who totter off to bed and go to sleep,
To dream of untriangulated stars.
I’ve been dipping my head into the work of E. A. Robinson again. He was a contemporary (and at times considered a rival of) Robert Frost. He led a pretty bleak life: in his twenties, drinking and money problems had him kinda lost.
He eventually found a patron/friend/savior in the form of President Theodore Roosevelt, who, after becoming aware of his work, set him up with steady work hoping to keep him writing. And it did.
I love this story because of what it says about not fitting in. After reading him long enough, I’ve become convinced that some part of him was aware of not fitting in, and put it to work in his poems.
What I love about the octave above is the use (a successful use) of the words “unremunerative” and “untriangulated” – how the long words draw attention to themselves, almost seem not to fit in. But they do, both in rhythm and sense: triangulated stars are those close enough to be measured. The phrase “untriangulated stars” refers to those stars too distant to be measured.
That, to me, is the beauty of not fitting in: sometimes it comes in a way that is moving and encouraging.
Happy (not) fitting in!