When they reach the river they all find
a clearing where the current seems to slow,
but heavy lying mists obscure their sight.
No judging distance to the farther bank,
and anyone who steps into the flow
immediately disappears, enveloped.
These souls submit to many difficulties.
They find themselves in such a weakened state
that progress is well-nigh impossible.
Their reason is confounded; they can make
no sense of what their eyes and ears reveal.
At first their limbs cannot obey their will;
their tongues are loose and inarticulate,
and as they make their way they presently
forget the feel of solid ground, the clear-
eyed sight of that bright world where everything
appears exactly as it is, the rest
untroubled of the still place they have left.
How terrifying it must be, to labor
uncertainly in swift and plunging currents
ceaseless except for change, often deceived
by shapes that loom nearby and disappear
again into the dim, unsettling mist.
Not one can see the hand before his face,
or guess how far to reach the other side,
though they tell many stories of that place
to urge each other on. No one recalls
his former state; confusion rules, and keeps
each separated from his neighbor, though
they often drift into another’s path,
supposing greater distances from some
nearby, and close proximities to others
far away. Collisions can’t be helped
but few can see them for the comedies
they are. Though limited by ignorance,
most are deadly serious about themselves.
Their greatest fear is to be swept away
and lost forever in the surging waters,
shrouded in mist, never to know a clear
moment of peace and the relief of landfall.
Some hesitate before they step into
that current, draw back from its scudding edge,
troubled by the unfamiliar, sensing
consequences, holding for the most
propitious moment, pausing at the thought
of all they must abandon to begin
the solitary trial they call life.