So this week I'm walking to raise money for the women and girls who spend their lives walking. (You can sponsor me here!) Much less depends on my walk than on theirs, but the idea is to walk in their shoes, at least some part of the way. That set me thinking, naturally, of poems about walking, and there are many. Walking has a rich literature, even more so in prose; after all, prose is a kind of walking. According to this literature, there's a mysterious affinity between walking and thinking, and a persistent allegory between walking and living. Even as I write this I'm conscious of the gulf between poor women walking for their lives, and privileged men walking for their own amusement, but if part of that privilege is having written some beautiful poetry about it, that at least can be shared. Here are some bits of Whitman, Pound and Frost: poems to travel by.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. [...]
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here. [...]
All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.
(Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”)
Where the hills part
In three ways,
And three valleys, full of winding roads,
Fork out to south and north,
There is a place of trees . . . grey with lichen.
I have walked there
Thinking of old days.
(Ezra Pound, “Provincia Deserta” - March, 1915)
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
(Robert Frost, “Reluctance”)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel bothAnd be one traveler, long I stoodAnd looked down one as far as I couldTo where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other...
(Robert Frost, “The Road not Taken”)