" The point made by the poet is similar to the poem above. The reference to John,
The Father of our souls, shall be,
John tells us, doth not yet appear;
is a reference to the Book of Revelations, at the end of the Bible.
That despite the promises of an Eternal life for those who eschew sin, we are still frail and have the faults of people. We are still besought by sin and temptations and there's really no escape. People are people. No matter what we say or do, we find that life is not so simple. Consider this reference, which really refers to a person's frame of reference or "way of seeing."
Wise men are bad -- and good are fools,
This is a paradoxical statement: there is large gap between spirituality and reality. Those we consider wise or bad, might make decisions that are globally profound, but might harm specific people, yet these people are considered wise. Sometimes people who are considered good, might in their goodness not realize that they are doing harm. Here, the poet is confused. Life is not as simple as one might imagine or as the Bible admonishes us to believe. And yet, there is still a glimmer of hope for each of us, according to Clough. He begs that we continue to believe. That despite the pessimism and failure to find the Messiah, he believes that what was prophesied might yet come to pass.
He echoes these sentiments in "The Last Decalogue," which is another way of referring to the Ten Commandments. It is interesting to see why he calls it the Last Decalogue; there has been only one, and according to Christianity, this is immutable, as it bears the finality of the word of God. There is no point here, in attempting to rewrite the poem, because most are aware of the Ten Commandments. But the poet portrays the commandments as a way for the Israelites to repay God by obeying these commandments as recompense for being brought out of slavery.
Approves all forms of competition
God on the other hand, makes no commitments to his people, according to the poet who views this issue pessimistically, considering that Judaism arose out of that Exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel.
Clough's relationship with God was not only contentious, it was confusing, perhaps mirroring the confusion in his own demeanor towards God and religion. While he is largely complaining about God, who the poet believes does not keeps his own promises to God's people, but at the same time, he is critical of people who only turn to God in times of need. The entire poem, "There Is No God, the Wicked Sayeth" is filled with instances of people who while enjoying well-being turn to themselves, but to God in times of trouble. The following is one among many excerpts.
There is no God," the wicked saith,
And truly it's a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It's better only guessing."
And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
or something very like Him
The poem, "Noli Amuelari" is a fantastically fatalistic poem, not to mention pessimistic. Here the poet does not see light anywhere. Surrounding mankind is complete misery. Consider the opening lines for each of the four stanzas in the poem.
What though in blood their souls embruing
No violence--perverse -- persistent
In controversial foul impureness
By curses, by denunciation
And in all this, the poet sees neither a glimmer of hope nor redemption. In fact, he cautions that struggling against the downhill slide of the scheme of things is fruitless. He cautions, pessimistically, that there is no saving grace to all of this, that fighting against what one has not control over -- all off life, is a fool's choice. He advises that people should merely go with the flow because there is no redemption. We will see similar arguments made by Umar Khayyam towards the end of this essay.
From Clough's struggle with his Christianity, one must turn to poems with threads of pessimism because of his struggles with fear and uncertainty. There is no immediate evidence that Clough lived a life on the sea, or whether he had any bad experiences while sailing or traveling by sea. One is not sure if he was in a war. But he uses the Sea as the metaphor for his uncertainties. What comes immediately to mind is that Clough associates uncertainty with the Sea vs. The stability of firm ground. You have some recourse when facing a storm on land, but none whatsoever if a calamity of this kind would befall people at Sea.
In "Qua Cursum Ventus" he compares life's journey to a voyage, more importantly a journey through life with a friend. This friend is personified by another ship. Interestingly enough, in this journey, the ships are static, or in a holding pattern, or in the status quo during sunlight. But the ships and the winds and the sails come to life in the night.
When fell the night, upsprung the breeze,
And all the darkling hours they plied,
There is revelry after darkness falls, and this is when the crewmen feel alive, even in the face of a storm.
At dead of night their sails were fill'd,
And onward each rejoicing steer'd
Ah, neither blame, for neither will'd,
One is not sure then whether the darkness is a metaphor for the difficulties of life and that a friend is there during life's travails. One might also see the other ship as God who wills us onwards in the darkness of our lives. One parallel to this might be seen in the modern parable "Footprints in the Sand." To briefly provide a synopsis of this parable: a man dreams that he sees his entire life as footprints on the beach. Some times there's one set of prints, at other times there are two sets, the second set belonging to God. And the man realizes, in his dream that the two sets of prints are at good times in his life and during the difficult times, there is only one set of prints. Of this, he complains to God, who retorts, that God has been with him all his life, in good times and in bad. He saw only one set of prints during the difficult times, because that was when God carried him.
In this poem however, the poet shows a sense of uncertainty to the dawn of day or new horizons, he believes that things might seem not what they are. He is probably afraid that he will perceive his friend for who he is and find out that he is not really his friend.
To veer, how vain! on, onward strain,
Brave barks! In light, in darkness too,
Through winds and tides one compass guides
To that, and your own selves, be true.
The last line is something we hear quite often. Therefore, with this uncertainty in friendship, the poet admonishes that one should look out for one self first, without additional reliance on the other. Like two ships passing each other in the night, friendships might not last forever. This is an interestingly pessimistic view, for a poem that starts out glorifying the notion of friendship, togetherness and unity.
One will see in the coming paragraph how the uncertainty of the Sea becomes for the poet a source of pessimism. In "How in All Wonder," the poet is talking about the world being round; that he is of wonder how Columbus and other explorers like Drake and Bacon could look to undertake these journeys.
How in all wonder Columbus got over,
That is a marvel to me, I protest,
Cabot, and Raleigh too, that well-read rover,
Frobisher, Dampier, Drake and the rest.
Bad enough all the same,
For them that after came,
There is a legitimate fear that they would fall off the face of the earth. From his pessimistic perch, the poet wonders how it would be possible that these people could summon up the strength and motivate themselves to undertake these journeys.
These voyagers and adventurers had no way of knowing that they would reach somewhere, and yet they undertook the journeys anyway. Clough is critical but at the same time grudgingly admires the optimism of these voyagers. But once again the pessimist in Clough wins over. He believes that even if the philosophers of old did believe that the earth was as round "as an orange." They would not have had to undertake such a journey: simply, because there is no "Ed Dorado" or "Fountain of Youth" to be found. It would be a thankless journey.