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Featured Poem: Outlook by Archibald Lampman

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 29th July 2013

This week's Featured Poem comes from Megg Hewlett, Project Worker for Get Into Reading London, who has been sharing Archibald Lampman's uplifting outlook on life with one of her groups:

I'm with a group on a locked hospital ward. We are reading Outlook by Archibald Lampman and wondering what 'headlong days' are. Perhaps they are unrelenting and go on and on, certainly they are something we want to ‘stand free’ from. Somebody says being in here can feel like that; the days go on and on.

A asks what ‘brood’ means. Several people have ideas about this. 'To think deeply,' says S. 'Like when a woman wants to have a baby', said R, 'and it’s the only thing she can think about.' So what would it be like ‘to keep the mind at brood on life’s deep meaning’ and why does the poet suggest we do this? 'It’s like standing back,' says someone. Yes! 'Maybe like being an eagle and getting a different perspective on things, seeing things from another position,' adds S.

D says 'he seems to be saying we’ve got to not forget important things; ‘What man, what life, what love, what beauty is’ but he’s not telling us what’s important about each thing. And then someone says ‘it’s different for everyone’.

I ask what might be ‘the great voices from life’s outer sea’ and A mentions Martin Luther King and some person called Winston. ‘Do you mean Winston Churchill?’ I say. Yes, that’s right, him. Yes, I agree, many people might find them very helpful ‘voices’ to be hearing…maybe they inspire people?

We read the poem again.

'That's not bad is it?' says R. 'It says something true.'


Not to be conquered by these headlong days,
But to stand free: to keep the mind at brood
On life's deep meaning, nature's altitude
Of loveliness, and time's mysterious ways;
At every thought and deed to clear the haze
Out of our eyes, considering only this,
What man, what life, what love, what beauty is,
This is to live, and win the final praise.
Though strife, ill fortune, and harsh human need
Beat down the soul, at moments blind and dumb
With agony; yet, patience—there shall come
Many great voices from life's outer sea,
Hours of strange triumph, and, when few men heed,
Murmurs and glimpses of eternity.

Archibald Lampman

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