These handsome. many-windowed houses
and their pampered tree-sheltered gardens
were built to partner this steeply-rising road;
for looking down on cool nights such as this
those who live in them can observe at their leisure
a sparkling city, a glittering mosaic of brilliant jewels.
But do they ever look the other way, to where the road
reaches up towards a vast and distant sky,
far above the highest of these towering rooves;
and do they know what is beyond the clouded ridge:
spacious moorlands perhaps,close-patterned fields,
echoing forests, maybe even another shimmering city?
I do not know; I am new to this place,
and all I see when I look to where the road seems to end
is a fading into insignificant darkness.
I have had much cause lately to think about my final end. I am reminded of this poem that I had written some years ago, which described a real place I visited in Surrey, but which also described in metaphorical form my feelings as they concern religious faith. For better or worse, I do not have one. I have a spiritual life,and a highly philosophical view of human existence, but I do not see the world and its place in the universe as the religionists see it. There are mysteries that cannot be explained, not by religion, not by science, not by conspiratorial guess-work. One of those mysteries is the experience of death. This poem is an allegorical expression of that sense of mystery as might be experienced by a non-religionist. It is not as despairing as it might first seem. I value life for what it is. As painful as it has been I have fought to use it, to achieve something with it. But I also value the thought that one day, one way or the other, I will be done at last with all the pain that my life has thrust upon me.