The Wrong Road – C. Day Lewis

There was no precise point at which to say
‘I am on the wrong road.’ So well he knew
Where he wanted to go, he had walked in a dream
Never dreaming he could lose his way.
Besides, for such travellers it’s all but true
That up to a point any road will do
As well as another – so why not walk
Straight on? The trouble is, after this point
There’s no turning back, not even a fork;
And you never can see that point until
After you have passed it. And when you know
For certain you are lost, there’s nothing to do
But go on walking your road, although
You walk in a nightmare now, not a dream.

But are there no danger-signs? Couldn’t he see
Something strange about the landscape to show
That he was near where he should not be?
Rather the opposite – perhaps the view
Gave him a too familiar look
And made him feel at home where he had no right
Of way.
But when you have gone so far,
A landscape says less than it used to do
And nothing seems very strange. He might
Have noticed how, mile after mile, this road
Made easier walking – noticed a lack
Of grit and gradient; there was a clue.
Ah yes, if only he had listened to his feet!
But, as I told you, he walked in a dream.

You can argue it thus or thus: either the road
Changed gradually under his feet and became
A wrong road, or else it was he who changed
And put the road wrong. We’d hesitate to blame
The traveller for a highway’s going askew:
Yet possibly he and it become one
At a certain stage, like means and ends.
For this lost traveller, all depends
On how real the road is to him – not as a mode
Of advancement or exercise – rather, as grain
To timber, intrinsic-real.

He can but pursue
His course and believe that, granting the road
Was right at the start, it will see him through
Their errors and turn into the right road again.


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