In Retrospect


WHEN I look back on what has gone
And view the wasted years
I wonder should I travel on
With all my doubts and fears.

Had I but known in ‘twenty four
What I too well know now,
I should have turned and thought before
I did the course allow.

For in the realm of chemistry,
And eke of physics too,
I find myself too oft at sea
With no firm land in view.

Decisions then, though hard to make,
Would not have been so dire;
But now my course I’ll have to take
Through purgatory’s fire.

It’s much too late to alter things,
I have to face what comes;
Although I fear the mutterings
Of distant hostile drums.

And easy optimism saps
My power to make retreat,
And I must gnaw at husks and scraps
Instead of whole-some meat.

For in the world of books and pen
I know my home to be,
And all the work of science men
Is so much travesty.

The thoughts of men in books and plays,
The culture of such minds
Is what my soul desires to praise,
Where it contentment finds.

The glories of the printed page
All far outshine the skill
That physicists and chemists wage,
Apply it as they will.

Mathematics can at time excite
My interest and love,
But never brings the same delight
Or my emotions move

As literature or music can,
Or art with its allure.
Why did I not confront the man
With purpose plain and sure?

For he ordained – no argument –
My better course was Science;
To his decree my head I bent,
All else were plain defiance.

The reason being, I suppose,
That I was weak in Latin;
And yet, as every schoolboy knows,
Such is the common pattern.

I know King Lear and liked the text
Of other writings set;
And would have studied for the next
A Latin pass to get.

But that was three long years ago,
Three years of fruitless quest;
And failed examinations strew
The path, and pain my breast.

The die is cast, the course is fixed
But by an errant star;
I launch my boat with orders mixed,
As conscripts go to war.

18. 9. 1927