This is a review of the poetry Old poem for G.C.E.
Absence makes heart grow fonder
An old military man returns to his nears and dears after six and a
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.
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
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
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
'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.