Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth

Life continues to be as well as it ever has been. There have been blue skies and green grass and warm sunshine happening almost every day now (but as is hardly surprising on the Wasatch front, there have been interruptions to the warm streak). Popcicles have immerged from the freezer, and my 19th birthday has come and gone in the company of baked alaska and zoo animals and disney movies and frisbee and loved ones. On the whole, all is well.

Thanks for tuning in to the "Life and Times of Rachel" update. Now on with the post.


Today I wish to share with you a favorite poem of mine, one that my father introduced to me some years ago. It was written by English poet Arthur Hugh Clough, and without further ado I include it as follows:

SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
   The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
   And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
   It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
   And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
   Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
   Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
   When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
   But westward, look, the land is bright!

On several occasions - generally at the start of a new school year, when I was anxious and afraid that I would not be cut out for the new workload - my wise father shared with me the second stanza of this poem. "If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars," he told me. If hopes can be easily laid aside or stated faulty, can fears not be the same?

In the last year, I have learned a little of despair and fear. I have felt myself swallowed up by worries and difficulties, and found myself wondering if I was equal to the tasks before me. I wondered how it could possibly all be done. I discovered, though, that often "in yon smoke concealed, your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, and but for you possess the field." This certainly was so with my comrades - more often than not it was they who reminded me that my battle did not wage as sore as I believed. However, I think this idea applies even more so to my Heavenly Father.

I have felt sometimes that there is no way that every problem before me will work out. I tell myself I'll never be able to pay for all of my schooling, or I'll never be able to publish my book, or join the Tabernacle Choir, or find someone who loves me enough that he would take me his for all eternity - all of which are my brightest, dearest dreams and ambitions. Shadows of self doubt set in, and the hope of their coming true succumbs to despair. Yet in spite of my fears, I have seen, time and time again, that Heavenly Father is looking ahead of where I am, placing the solutions just beyond my vision, "in yon smoke concealed," waiting for me to go on a little longer until I can discover them. I have come to realize that He always possesses the field - no matter how our own smaller battles are progressing.

Do not despair. The world is sometimes harsh, and life can somtimes be too much to bear. Everyone has dark days and heavy burdens. However, I promise that "the labor and the wounds" are never in vain. Keep fighting the good fight, pressing forward, carrying on - and one day you will see how much of the field has been won beyond the smoke. The enemy will faint, things will change for the better, and are probably even changing now, whether you have seen it or not.

Westward look, my friends - "the land is bright."

Yours always, 'til next we meet...


  1. Well, this post is more timely than even I can fathom! The poem is new to me. Your words have found me on an evening where I find myself struggling with those creeping self doubts. I found my smile again.

    sometimes, when we begin slipping into a place of doubt and lonely reflection, we lose sight of the fact that there are many others who feel the same emotions. What I love about blogging is that it is a constant reminder of the commonalities we humans share....

    The land is bright!

  2. Thank you, my friend. If I have said or written anything that has made a difference for anyone, my purpose is fulfilled.

    I've thought of that some myself, and I fully agree - what you said about blogging, I mean. When you're writing to such a wide spectrum of people, it causes you to think about what they experience as well as yourself. And really... we're not all so different, at that.