Happy Places And Eugene O'Neill's Free
Did you know that Eugene O'Neill wrote poetry before now?
Weary am I of the tumult, sick of the staring crowd,
Pining for wild sea places where the soul may think aloud.
Fled is the glamour of cities, dead as the ghost of a dream,
While I pine anew for the tint of blue on the breast of the old Gulf Stream.
I have had my dance with Folly, nor do I shirk the blame;
I have sipped the so-called Wine of Life and paid the price of shame;
But I know that I shall find surcease, the rest my spirit craves,
Where the rainbows play in the flying spray,
'Mid the keen salt kiss of the waves.
Then it's ho! for the plunging deck of a bark, the hoarse song of the crew,
With never a thought of those we left or what we are going to do;
Nor heed the old ship's burning, but break the shackles of care
And at last be free, on the open sea, with the trade wind in our hair.
Searching through poems, I was surprised to find one written by Eugene O’Neill, the famous American playwright. Considering that he wrote a considerable amount of plays, the masterpieces Desire Under the Elms, A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night being among them, I naively didn’t believe he had time to write much else. Yet, here to prove me wrong is Free.
In the first stanza, you are immediately made aware of the fact that the speaker is worn down and wants to run away from his current life circumstances. He’s tired of being bugged. He feels penned in in the big city. Though he once loved his lifestyle and even dreamt of living it, it's lost it's appeal. He longs for his comfort zone on the sea.
He, in the second stanza, admits that life hasn’t been treating him well, but he’s not going to blame it on anyone else, but himself. He has experienced life, but perhaps too much of it. He has done foolish things and had to pay the price. He finds comfort in knowing that there is a place, faraway from where he is, where he can rest and relieve himself of his burdens. Once he’s on the sea once more, he’ll feel like himself again.
The final stanza is a journey, in his mind or the actual one. Once he’s on the sea again, he won’t think of the people and problems he’s left behind. He won’t care about what he’ll do when he returns to his life. All that will matter is the present and relaxing. He’s going to put his life on hold.
For me, my happy place is by water. I love swimming in pools and in lakes. I love sitting by the ocean and feeling the cool breeze and smelling the salty air. My heartbeat slows to a normal pace. My mind is clear. You can’t help, but cry when you’re finally released of your burdens, even for a short time. The sea expects nothing from you. While you’re by it, you can be yourself.
While O’Neill was a talented playwright, he found little to no joy in this. The bulk of his plays involved tragedy that, in some ways, mirrored his own life. He suffered from depression and alcoholism for nearly his entire life as did his parents and brother. His only joy could be found in the sea which explains what inspired this poem.
We all have a place where we would rather be. It is the place where we feel our most comfortable. No one can hurt us there or demand things of us. It is a sacred place that you hold dear. Like O’Neill, we get bogged down and stressed out. We try so hard to get to a place in our lives that, once we get there and realize it's not that great, all we want is to get away from it. We begin to wonder if we actually wanted it to begin with or if we thought we wanted it because someone else wanted it for us. Whether it be a job or a lifestyle change, it becomes clear too late that it was all wrong for us. We made the wrong decision. We are stuck until we do something about it and daydreaming is not it.
To read more poetry analysis by this writer, please click on the link below.