Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

The Hinterland


You speak to me, but does your speech
With truest truth your thought convey?
I listen to your words and each
Is what I wait to hear you say.
The pattern that your lips reveal,
How does it measure with your mind?
What undertones do you conceal?
Your smile is sweet - but what's behind?

I speak to you, but do I tell
The secret working of my brain?
Frank honesty would make life hell,
And truth be tantamount to pain.
When deep into the mind one delves,
Appalling verities we view;
If we betrayed our inner selves,
Would you hate man and I hate you?

Are we not strangers each to each,
And all alone we live and die?
Deception is the stuff of speech,
And life a smug and glossy lie,
Where puppet-like our parts we play:
The first in public we rehearse,
The second when we shrink away
into our private universe.

The soul has its grim hinterland
'Twere better never to explore;
Dark jungles where obscenely planned
Prowl monsters of primaeval lore;
With primal fear our lives are fraught,
And cravenly we cower behind
The silences of secret thought,
The murky mazes of the Mind.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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