Being different from others, thinking unlike most people, can make you feel lonely, or even sense a form of rejection. You are outside mainstream civilization. You live on another planet. You must be a freak.
However progress and novelty require abandoning mainstream ideas and beliefs, they almost always come from people who think differently, people who often look weird. Thus progress and change have been denounced over and over by supporters of the status quo. Nevertheless fruitful ideas held by a few have more value than old prejudices believed by hundreds of millions of blind followers.
Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.
Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, Chapter 6 “The Problem of Dictatorship”.
Genuine poets are different people. They often experience loneliness and misunderstanding during a long part of their life. They have suffered deep in their heart. And they create beautiful things that brighten the world. Why not follow their path, you all who feel different from the rest?
When you feel lonely and different, possibly your imagination flies freely, you see your difference expressed in every thing around you, as shows Edgar Allan Poe in his poem “Original [Alone]” written about 1829 (I give here the “Mabbott text A” version published online by The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore):
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone —
Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still —
From the torrent, or the fountain —
From the red cliff of the mountain —
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold —
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by —
From the thunder, and the storm —
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view —
In your wild imagination, maybe you will play the game of scaring yourself with ordinary things, as in Poe’s poem “The Lake — To —” from The Raven and Other Poems (1845) (I give here the “Mabbott text F” version published online by The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore):
THE LAKE — TO ——.
IN spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide earth a spot
The which I could not love the less —
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.
But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon that spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody —
Then — ah then I would awake
To the terror of the lone lake.
Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremulous delight —
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define —
Nor Love — although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining —
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.
Now comes another poet, John Clare, who knew difference and loneliness. I give some verses from his collection Poems Chiefly from Manuscript by John Clare, available online as Project Gutenberg ebook (or digitization of the printed edition on Internet Archive).
The original and creative person must labour secretly, hiding from light, unseen by a blind world … as in this poem from the part “Middle Period, 1824-1836” of the collection:
When once the sun sinks in the west,
And dew-drops pearl the evening’s breast;
Almost as pale as moonbeams are,
Or its companionable star,
The evening primrose opes anew
Its delicate blossoms to the dew;
And, shunning-hermit of the light,
Wastes its fair bloom upon the night;
Who, blindfold to its fond caresses,
Knows not the beauty he possesses.
Thus it blooms on till night is bye
And day looks out with open eye,
Abashed at the gaze it cannot shun,
It faints and withers, and is done.
Don’t expect recognition in your lifetime. You will die alone and unnoticed:
The Poet’s Death
The world is taking little heed
∴ And plods from day to day:
The vulgar flourish like a weed,
∴ The learned pass away.
We miss him on the summer path
∴ The lonely summer day,
Where mowers cut the pleasant swath
∴ And maidens make the hay.
The vulgar take but little heed;
∴ The garden wants his care;
There lies the book he used to read,
∴ There stands the empty chair.
The boat laid up, the voyage oer,
∴ And passed the stormy wave,
The world is going as before,
∴ The poet in his grave.
Being lonely, abandoned and scorned can make you sour, you can even long for death, as the old Clare, left alone in a lunatic asylum, told so well in the concluding piece of his Asylum Poems:
I AM: yet what I am none cares or knows,
♥ My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
♥ They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
♥ Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
♥ But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And een the dearest—that I loved the best—
Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
♥ A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator, GOD,
♥ And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
Despair and longing for death were also part of the sad life of Ernest Dowson, as shows the following poem from Poésie Schublade, published in Ernest Dowson Collected Poems, Robert Kelsey Rought Thornton and Caroline Dowson (editors), Birmingham University Press, 2003. It is associated with a series of “Sonnets of a Little Girl”, although there is no little girl in it:
[Sonnets of a Little Girl]
Let us go hence: the night is now at hand;
The day is overworn, the birds all flown.
And we have reaped the crops the gods have sown;
Despair and death—deep darkness on the land,
Broods for all time; we cannot understand
The meaning of our life, all that is shown
Is bitter to the core, while overthrown
The veil of woe enwraps us where we stand.
Let us go hence, the grave is doubtless cold,
The coffin dark—yet there just and unjust
Find end of labour, there’s rest for the old,
Freedom to all from fear and love and lust.
Let us go hence and pray the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.
A modified version of it, “A Last Word,” was published in November 1896, then included as the last poem in verse of Decorations, published in December 1899, two months before his death. Dowson had given up any hope in life after his beloved Adelaide rejected him and married another man.
To comfort all these sad men, there comes the cure: a little girl. First Hilda Conkling, with a gentle piece which she told to her mother when she was aged between 5 and 6, it was published in Poems by a Little Girl (1920), available online as Project Gutenberg ebook (or the digitization of the printed edition on Internet Archive):
LITTLE ROSE-MOSS beside the stone,
Are you lonely in the garden?
There are no friends of you,
And the birds are gone.
Shall I pick you?”
“Little girl up by the hollyhock,
I am not lonely.
I feel the sun burning,
I hold light in my cup,
I have all the rain I want,
I think things to myself that you don’t know,
And I listen to the talk of crickets.
I am not lonely,
But you may pick me
And take me to your mother.”
Next, a poem from Shoes of the Wind, A Book of Poems (1922), from the printed edition digitized on Internet Archive:
DO not grieve,
Do not be unhappy,
Do not look about
As though you saw nothing!
♥ Soon the black, the dark green ocean
♥ Will come back . . .
♥ Will clash against the rocks
♥ On the sliding sand . . .
♥ Soon the sun will come from the eastern horizon
♥ Up from great blue hills
♥ To change the water to glittering heaps
♥ Of pearls. . . .
Then you will remember!
We end with the cosmic love of Minou Drouet, who says in her poem “Then they come” from her second collection Le Pêcheur de lune, published by Pierre Horay in 1959 when she was aged 12:
No, I am
A new Sputnick
All the children
Of the world.
I am the Sputnick