I once wrote a historical novel. It was never published but I loved doing the research and trying to create characters whose life experiences were very different from my own. They weren’t famous people, just ordinary men and women whose harsh lives were largely unchronicled in the history books.
The following poem was the perfect companion, encouraging me to persevere with my efforts to empathise with voiceless strangers. Coming across it again, at a time when tolerance and generosity of spirit suddenly seem in very short supply, I feel it has fresh relevance. When the dominant narrative is unfriendly, we may need a little help to climb out of our comfort zone and think for ourselves …
Never be disenchanted of
That place you sometimes dream yourself into,
Lying at large remove beyond all dream,
Or those you find there, though but seldom
In their company seated –
The untameable, the live, the gentle.
Have you not known them? Whom? They carry
Time looped so river-wise about their house
There’s no way in by history’s road
To name or number them.
In your sleepy eyes I read the journey
Of which disjointedly you tell; which stirs
My loving admiration, that you should travel
Through nightmare to a lost and moated land,
Who are timorous by nature.