Over every advance looms vanity;
With each conquest, a new ambition buds;
With every gain comes an urge to consume.
All victories add distance
To the illusory horizon of attainment.

The wise one heeds a setback
For its eloquent encouragement to persist.
The strong soul woos elusive fruition
For its divine kiss of humility.
The grateful among us see fortune flee
And value all the more its enduring remnants.

The noble pursuit sustains at every step,
And every turn reveals eternal truth.
Its fulfillment marks merely
The final syllable
Of a word one cannot speak
But every harkening heart can hear
And comprehend in timeless, breathless awe.

4 thoughts on “Pursuit

  1. Paul, every teacher needs to read this before setting foot on a class on Day 1. There are such deep truths in this poem that I could spend hours thinking of all the ways the elusive fruition, the pursuit of success is that illusory horizon of attainment. As an island girl for most of my life, the horizon is always seen and never reached. Your words and ways of sharing your thinking provide far more invitations to return to this one and really ponder what is success, what is failure, what is the role of both along the journey and how do they frame our response and shape us? Just what are we really doing?? Friend, I love this one. I want to frame it and read it daily – and it ends with Fran Haley’s one little word, too, so it makes me think of her.

    1. My goodness! Thanks, Kim! I do not know what to say. Interesting that you relate it to teaching, which was somewhat on my mind. I had been inspired by pursuit of various endeavors, and I have come to see being confounded as a kind of blessing–if that does not seem pathological. Thank you as always for seeing so much in what I write.

  2. A hauntingly beautiful poem, woven of many truths shining like silver threads… I find myself wanting to comment on the power of every single line but that would be, like, an entire essay, so I’ll try an abbreviated version: being grateful for setbacks is a unique perspective, for it keeps one humble, and, well, grateful! (So much for eloquence on my part). There’s a bit of cautionary tale in your opening stanza, akin to ‘pride goeth before a fall.’ In the second stanza, that “divine kiss of humility” is telling… takes me straight to the artwork, which means something (I adore symbolism): Apollo pursuing Daphne, in vain. Certainly the poem-language aligns with the notion of thwarted romantic pursuits, BUT…Apollo is (among many things) the god of poetry, so your speaker’s acknowledgement of heeding setback for “eloquent encouragement to persist” sounds like a sigh from the depths of a poet’s soul, in pressing on with the craft, eventually transcending and being awed by it; this is something I know. Whatever the pursuit: The poem is gorgeous, this path of perseverance to awe, compelling, and the reminders of being grateful and humbled, invaluable. True craftsmanship!

    1. Fran, once again, thank you! It was just as I started writing the third stanza that I thought of the Bernini piece and knew I had to have a picture of it for this post. Your observations not only match much of what was on my mind as I wrote, but they extend to include things that I may have had in the back of my mind as well. You and I seem both to connect to that concept of awe, which I intend to explore more. So kind of you to offer such deep, elaborate commentary. I take encouragement from it.

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