Red figured wine jug with two horse chariot passing a finish post. British Museum.
Photo by Carole Raddato, Frankfurt, Germany.
Life is a ... what? A dream? A walking shadow?
A joke, as Gilbert said, That's just begun?
Better to say a game of chance, a lottery
You may have lost,or, at the reckoning, won.
A game indeed, a cap from which each player
In times gone past drew his allotted spill,
Which left him on unequal terms with others,
A hand i' cap, to test his strength of will.
Fortunes may sometimes seem to rob the gifted,
But gives them other qualities instead:
As colours blazed from Renoir's crippled fingers,
As music thundered in Beethoven's head.
'How sad!' we say, embarrassed by affliction,
Buying a flag to fit a buttonhole;
Think of the damaged who are not defeated,
The drowners in self-pity who are whole.
There was a horse that triumphed in the derby,
There was a rider who never would say die:
The heart may know a hundred ways of winning,
The only way to fail is not to try.
by Roger Woddis (1917-93) This poem was published in the Radio Times in 1981, according to the yellowing cutting in my scrap-book.
I think the second line of the last verse is a reference to the steeple-chase jockey Bob Champion who fought his battle with cancer to return to the sport to win the English Grand National in 1981 on Aldaniti. This horse had, in 1979, received severe fractures to his right hind leg and the vets. had recommended that he be destroyed. A winning combination in so many respects.