“THE HILL” by Nissim Ezekiel

 

This normative hill
like all others
is transparently accessible,
out there
and in the mind,
not to be missed
except in peril of one’s life.
Do not muse on it
from a distance:
it’s not remote
for the view only,
it’s for the sport
of climbing.
What the hill demands
is a man
with forces flowering
as from the crevices
of rocks and rough surfaces
wild flowers
force themselves towards the sun
and burn
for a moment.
How often must I
say to myself
what I say to others:
trust your nerves–
in conversation or in bed
the rhythm comes.
And once you begin
hang on for life.
What is survival?
What is existence?
I am not talking about
poetry. I am
talking about
perishing
outrageously
and calling it
activity.
I say: be done with it.
I say:
you’ve got to love that hill.
Be wrathful, be impatient
that you are not
on the hill. Do not forgive
yourself or other,
though charity
is all very well.
.

The poem has some very nice images. I particularly like the image of the wild flowers that burst out of the rock crevice to burn briefly. The metaphor of the hill runs throughout: the hill is normative ; the hill is for the sport of climbing , not for musing on from a distance and in the end ,you flow into another kind of time which is the hill you thought you always knew. The image of–flowing into another kind of time does not seem to jell with the idea of flowing into the hill unless one imagines our consciousness entering the hill like a kind of stream flowing through the hills.

The last lines are very rich :

Do not rest
in irony or acceptance.
Man should not laugh
when he is dying.
In decent death
you flow into another kind of time
which is the hill
you always thought you knew.

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