While most of my reading time is spent on novels, I always enjoy finding and reading good poetry. Poetry is a unique form of art; it distills emotions and experiences into a compact form. Poems are the most musical collections of words in our language – an amalgam of letters that fiddle with rhyme, rhythm, and meter in search of the perfect balance of sound and meaning.
In late 2013, probably cleaning for some inspection at West Point, I leafed through a black leather Moleskine journal on my bookshelf. I hadn’t written in the journal in almost a year… I tend to get easily distracted from one project, going off in search of another. The journal was one such case of my wandering mind. About twenty pages were filled, mostly my scattered thoughts and a few interspersed lecture notes.
The first entry was a poem. According to the date, I read and recorded the poem on September 17, 2012. The text makes my yearlong abandonment of the journal all the more ironic:
The Men Who Don’t Fit In (1903)
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.
Robert W. Service (1874-1958)