A Wintertime Lament About Forgotten Things

Several poems I once had memorized—back in a day when I was seemingly more ambitious and resourceful and I actually engaged in such worthwhile pursuits as poetry memorization!—have slipped from my memory, possibly from lack of practice and inevitable brain aging.

Lying in bed the other night, while drifting into sleep, I was able to recall one of these almost-forgotten poems. My mind found a line here and there, and catching the pattern of the rhyme, brought these verses again into active memory.

Here is the poem as I remember it:

The Land That God Forgot
by Robert Service

The lonely sunsets flare forlorn
Down valleys dreadly desolate.
The lordly mountains soar in scorn,
As still as death, as stern as fate.

The lonely sunsets flame and die,
The giant valleys gulp the night.
The monster mountains scrape the sky,
Where eager stars are burning bright.

So gaunt against the gibbous moon,
Piercing the silence velvet-piled,
The lone wolf howls his ancient rune—
The fell arch-spirit of the wild.

O outcast land! O leper land!
Let the lone wolf’s cry all express
The hate insensate of thy hand,
Thy heart’s abysmal loneliness.

Now, here is the actual poem, which I just looked up in an Internet search. I highlighted the differences between the poem in my memory and the poem in reality. My memory didn’t do too badly!

The Land God Forgot
by Robert W. Service

The lonely sunsets flare forlorn
Down valleys dreadly desolate;
The lordly mountains soar in scorn
As still as death, as stern as fate.

The lonely sunsets flame and die;
The giant valleys gulp the night;
The monster mountains scrape the sky,
Where eager stars are diamond-bright.

So gaunt against the gibbous moon,
Piercing the silence velvet-piled,
A lone wolf howls his ancient rune—
The fell arch-spirit of the Wild.

O outcast land! O leper land!
Let the lone wolf-cry all express
The hate insensate of thy hand,
Thy heart’s abysmal loneliness.

As I recall, Robert Service wrote this poem about his experience of the northern frontier Yukon wilderness in the early part of the 20th century.

It seems fitting that I remembered a poem about a forgotten land while engaging in a wintertime lament about my own loss of memory. Here in the depths of this cold and dark winter, I simply feel like I used to know more back when I was younger and better.

I have to remind myself that there are still good days to come! As spring approaches, I’ll look up and restore to my memory a few more of those nearly-forgotten poems.

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