Life’s Tragedy

stone wall barrier from sxc by juliaf

Ever have one of those days (weeks? months?) where it feels as though you just keep hitting wall after wall after wall? Where even doing simple things takes an extraordinary amount of effort, or steps, or oomph?

I’m pretty sure this week is one of those weeks. The first couple of things that go awry, I mutter and go on. The next few happen, and I begin to suspect collaboration by fates or circumstance or some other invisible force. The walls keep appearing, the stones grow higher, and I begin to look back at myself. To wonder if I’m not being the problem instead of the solution. To question if I’m getting in my own way. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s not.

But I’m reminded of the poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Life’s Tragedy,” in which he brings home a simple truth: sometimes we lose sight of what is good by looking at what is not. By not taking pleasure in what we can do or what we try, we focus on how far from perfect the attempt was. Every now and again, that’s a lesson I need.

Life’s Tragedy
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

It may be misery not to sing at all
And to go silent through the brimming day.
It may be sorrow never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.

To have come near to sing the perfect song
And only by a half-tone lost the key,
There is the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of life’s tragedy.

To have just missed the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lays aside its vanity
And gives thee, for thy trusting worship, truth –

This, this it is to be accursed indeed;
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by the things we have,
But by what kept us from the perfect thing.

[Note: This post is #12 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
Last year’s “L” post: Labyrinth.]


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