Monday, August 30

the saddest are these

you've heard that line, from that poem, haven't you? I did some research: the poem is by a man named John Greenleaf Whittier, and it tells us a story of a well-to-do judge and a poor farm girl, and how they don't end up together but for the rest of their lives look back and wonder.

there is a sequel of sorts by a Mr. Harte. it's called Mrs. Judge Jenkins, and it gently mocks the sermonizing conclusion of Whittier's original, giving us the story how it may have played out in an alternate universe, and laying out the obvious paradox.

you see, everything that happens comes with a long, deep, shadowy tail of might-have-beens. nothing can be both ways at once. and since we only get to see it happen whichever way it happens to happen, we're always prone to the vague regret that comes from wondering how else it might have happened.

I wonder if what these poets really meant had more to do with how sad it is that we get so caught up with the past and our memories, our imaginations, and the unreal, instead of moving on and making the most of wherever we end up.

if we could know exactly what would have happened to us if any or all of the little details of our experience had been shifted, then what? if hindsight really was as perfect as they say, then what?

still, we'd just have a single version of the story to live. nothing can be both ways at once.

2 comments:

The Merrills said...

I really love reading your blog. Its very insightful, and true too! So far this is one of my favorites!
Miss you tons!

amelia said...

thank you so much. I miss you too, and your awesome family.