Dear Readers, concept of Time has bewildered our ancient sages, philosophers, poets, artists, including our famous scientists and physicists even to this day. It has no doubt also impacted my
mind in several ways! Therefore, this series about the ‘Enigma of Time In Verse’ is now being composed and posted to share my thoughts with my Poet friends on this Site. Hope they will like
the same. Thanking You, - Raj Nandy from New Delhi.
THE ENIGMA OF TIME IN VERSE : PART ONE
BY RAJ NANDY
A SHORT INTRODUCTION
During my childhood days, time appeared to be joyful and endless.
Though my parents had observed the clock all the while,
Telling me when to rise, when to eat, play, do my homework, -
till it was my bed time.
Alas, my childhood days as cherished memories are now left behind.
With rest of the world I am now chasing that winged arrow of Time!
Those Management Gurus say, that our twenty four hours day,
Is time enough for those who can manage time from day to day.
Yet I do find, that I am generally chasing time, not to be left behind!
Hoping that a full time job will provide, some quality time, with the desired comforts of life.
Therefore, I abide my time, hoping to have the time of my life one day, with some quality time coming my way.
But in this mad race against time, while chasing that butterfly of happiness,
I must learn to cool down and breathe, before time decides to elude me!
For with patience and perseverance, that butterfly of happiness, will alight gently on my shoulder in good time, and perhaps at
the right time!
While time is universally regarded as the fourth dimension by our physicists,
It is said to flow at different rates for different individuals as mentioned by Shakespeare the English dramatist.
FEW LITERARY QUOTES ABOUT TIME
In ‘As You Like It’ Act 3, Shakespeare refers to ‘the swift steps’ and the ‘lazy foot’of time in a relativistic way.
Time ‘trots’ for a young woman between her engagement and marriage when a week feels like seven years for her every day!
Time ‘ambles’ for a priest who doesn’t know Latin and a rich man without gout;
Since the priest is spared the burden of exhausting study, and the rich man is spared the burden of exhausting poverty - no doubt.
But time ‘gallops’ for a thief walking to the gallows, for even if he walks slowly, he happens to gets there too soon!
While time ‘stands still’ for lawyers on vacation, since he sleeps his holidays away!
Now moving forward to Einstein who once described his ‘Theory of Relativity’ very humorously in the following way; -
“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours,” he had said with a chuckle!
Getting back to Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ Act One on that blasted heath,
Macbeth asks the three witches, “If you can look into the seeds of Time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear…”
And finally that brilliant piece of soliloquy about Time by Macbeth in Act 5:
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death….”
John Milton’s poem ‘On Time’ composed in 1930 ends with his optimistic lines:
“Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace …..
When once our heavenly-guided soul shall clime,
Then all this Earthly grossness quit,
Attired with Stars, we shall forever sit
Triumphing over Death and Chance, and thee O Time.”
Alexander Pope in his ‘Imitations of Horace’ (1738) writes:
“Years following years steal something every day,
At last they steal us from ourselves away.”
Romantic poets have dealt with the transience of time, which got popularised by the Latin phrase ‘Carpe diem’ which tells us to ‘seize the day’;
This Latin phrase has been borrowed from the Roman lyrical poet Horace of ancient days.
Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Hard Times’ is an autobiography describing his difficult childhood days.
While the famous opening lines of his historical novel ‘A Tale of Two Cites’ take us back to 18th century London and Paris under times sway.
I quote Dickens’ memorable opening lines:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us ......”
We have the Nobel Laureate Tagore’s well known poetic lines on the subject of Time:
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of leaf.”
He described the Taj Mahal as “a tear drop on the cheek of Time,” in his unique poetic style!
TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quarters’ of 1935, include extended rumination on the nature of Time:
“Time present and time past,
Are both perhaps present in time future.
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present,
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility,
Only in a world of speculation….”
(Notes: This concept will become clearer in my Part Two, presently under construction.)
Next I have a quote from WH Auden’s poem ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’composed in 1937:
“But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
O let not Time deceive you.
You cannot conquer Time.”
Subject of Time forms an important part of science fiction even to this day.
HG Well’s ‘The Time Machine’ (1895) interests both the layman and the Scientific community even today!
Finally, I would like to conclude my Part One on ‘The Enigma of Time in Verse’ with my favourite poem composed by the British poet Ralph Hodgson:
TIME, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?
All things I'll give you
Will you be my guest,
Bells for your jennet
Of silver the best,
Goldsmiths shall beat you
A great golden ring,
Peacocks shall bow to you,
Little boys sing,
Oh, and sweet girls will
Festoon you with may.
Time, you old gipsy,
Why hasten away?
Last week in Babylon,
Last night in Rome,
Morning, and in the crush
Under Paul's dome;
Under Paul's dial
You tighten your rein—
Only a moment,
And off once again;
Off to some city
Now blind in the womb,
Off to another
Ere that's in the tomb.
Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day.
In Part Two I shall cover the Linear and Circular concepts of Time along with its Philosophical speculations.
Before moving on to Einstein’s concept of Time, and its present Scientific interpretations.
Thanks for reading patiently, from Raj Nandy of New Delhi.