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DateLine Sunday, 18 May 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

This is a review of the poetry Old poem for G.C.E. O/L.

Absence makes heart grow fonder

An old military man returns to his nears and dears after six and a half decades...

Old poem

At fifteen I went with the army,

At fourscore I came home.

On the way I met a man from the village,

I asked him who there was at home.

'That over there is your house,

All covered over with trees and bushes.'

Rabbits had run in at the dog-hole,

Pheasants flew down from the beams of the roof,

In the courtyard was growing some wild grain;

And by the well, some wild mallows.

I'll boil the grain and make porridge,

I'll pluck the mallows and make soup.

Soup and porridge are both cooked,

But there is no one to eat them with.

I went out and looked towards the east.

While tears fell and wetted my clothes.

Arthur Waley

The old poem was initially composed by a chinese poet and has been translated into English by Arthur Waley, who is a modern poet, interested in Chinese poetry who has also translated a number of Chinese poetry.

This poem deals with the experiences of an old man. The man leaves home and joins the army, at the age of fifteen. He returns home, when he was eighty, that is after sixty five years.

'At fifteen I went with the army

At four score I came home....'

He returns to an empty house, after six and half decades where he was welcomed by no one. Before he enters the premises he slightly remembers the size of his home. Alas, it is nomore. His hopes, expectations, changes that had occurred in him are depicted in the poem along with melancholic feelings. On returning home, he expects his dear ones and the same old house. But everything has changed.

'That over there is your house

All covered over with trees and bushes....'

What a shattering news his eager ears receive. What a heavy load of expectations were gleaming in his feeble eyes. Instead of his pleasant home, he sees a dilapidated one. No signs of inmates, as it has been abandoned since a long period of time. That time has played havoc with his life. It has served or remained nothing for him. What a miserable soldier he is to be deprived of affection, comfort and fulfilment.

'Rabbits had run in at the dog-hole

pheasants flew down from the beams of the roof...'

His loving comfortable home has become an abode for animals. It has been neglected and uninhabited on his absence. He experiences an extent of desolation in the environment which once has been his comfortable home. This deserted house brings him feelings of frustration. He becomes an alien to the location. But, his roots were there. He adjust himself to the situation. Once an, energetic soldier, still strong enough to be self supported to prepare a scrap meal with what is available in the environment. Yet, he isn't dispirited. The brave soldier tries to show a courageous face, as he is familiar with crucial situations.

'I'll boil the grain and make porridge

I'll pluck the mallows and make soup'

Even at the age of eighty he faces the situation in an optimistic way. How tenacious he is to manage on his own. He faces the situation with repressed emotions. Gradually he makes up mind to continue to live with the barest needs.

'But there is no one to eat them with....' How despaired he is to be deprived of any companionship. He feels as if he is marginalized. Even then 'He looks at the east...' the direction of 'Hope', as if there is somebody to come by. He makes a great effort to reconcile himself for the situation. He spent a great deal of his life serving his own country.

He returns home safely but there is a big vacuum that cannot be filled. This heavy 'Isolation' is the definite outcome of the wastage of his life. He looses his loved ones. Either he might have not kept close contact with the family members during the last few decades or must have been seriously involved in achieving his life goals. Such as human relationship, which he can never be replaced. War added an emptiness into his old age. Now he has no company to share his thrilling experience with. Not only his home, there is a great dilapidation in his whole life too. He might have left home as a playful child in his early springs of life. But during his winter he loses the most essential warmth of his family. The most important period of his life has been ruined due to war. What he has missed in his life, cannot be retractable. He might have been adventurous and courageous in the battle field.

'While tears fell and wetted my clothes'. How sensitive, this soldier is to realize the 'loneliness' through futility of war. I could imagine his deep sense of remorse and isolation. He too has become a victim of devastation war. War brings nothing, but misery. At the faces a pathetic plight of his old age. Nothingness is only his possession. What a long period of time man has to spend to understand the consequences of killing and fighting. His feelings void of happiness puts him in agony which gradually kills him psychologically.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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