Time drops in decay,
Like a candle burnt out,
And the mountains and woods
Have their day, have their day;
What one in the rout
Of the fire-born moods
Has fallen away?
– WB Yeats, The Moods
The Moods, as I understand it, are the messengers from God (God, in turn, is fire). Whatever your beliefs, there’s truth in the core message: time slips away drop by drop, and we all must pass. Whether a poet or philosopher or the woods or even the mountains themselves, all must “have their day”.
Let us turn to old friend Henry and consider the phrase differently:
“The universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions; whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us spend our lives in conceiving then. The poet or the artist never yet had so fair and noble a design but some of his posterity at least could accomplish it. Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry—determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock under and go with the stream?” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
We get so caught up in life’s minor distractions that we lose track of the days slipping by. Shouldn’t we channel that inner fire and spend our lives in conceiving while we have this time? But wait! If even the mountains themselves eventually erode to sand, how can we be so bold as to expect a measure of immortality?
This is why the concept of God and eternity hold so much meaning in our brief lives, we seek to understand the meaning of it all. Poets and philosophers and amateur bloggers each confront the brutal fact that we all must pass, and we don’t really have an answer for what lies beyond.
So be it. But knowing that the track is indeed laid before us, shouldn’t we reach for our own measure of immortality, as fragile as it might be, and make a day of it? That, friends, seems to be the point all along. Have your day.