Railway lines

How many times have I sat on this train
With questions flashing through my restless mind
Quick as the country passing. Yet again
I’m leaving all familiar things behind
And heading to the city’s dust-blown streets
They say are paved with gold in search of pay;
I’ve scored small victories, suffered sour defeats
And smiled home with the dying of the day.
So what of this adventure? Do I ride
This iron road to glory? Will tonight
See me return in triumph, or denied;
My little hopes undone and lost to sight.
Stout hearts march onwards, never looking back:
Have I the steel to take a different track?


Scribbled (most of) this in a notebook on the way to London yesterday. Needs must when the Devil drives and all that, but I cordially detest the capital; fortunately I don’t have to go there very often. The radical 19th Century writer William Cobbett, best known for his Rural Rides, positively loathed the place, famously calling it ‘the Great Wen’. I think he and I would have got on rather well. N.

4 thoughts on “Railway lines

    • To each his own, I guess, John! I have a sneaking admiration for and envy of those who thrive in London, but it always feels like a foreign country to me. Maybe I’m going to the wrong bits!! Mind you, I think the most ardent Londonphile would have stuggled to love a very windy Queen Victoria Street and Blackfriars yesterday. Let me also add that I can forgive the city almost everything because of The Globe, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the British Library and Fortnums! N.

  1. I am afraid that I agree with you, Nick. I get along with cities, but I have never loved traveling there and have always chosen to live in rural places. I used to have to travel to DC once a month and have probably been at every metro rail stop at least once, so I am actually pretty good at getting around, but when I can see wilderness and wildlife I feel better about life. Cities are, as with you, a way to make a living from where I would prefer to live. I do not, like you, have to worry about my next contract,
    Do I ride
    This iron road to glory? Will tonight
    See me return in triumph, or denied;
    My little hopes undone and lost to sight.
    The last line, however,
    Have I the steel to take a different track?
    intrigues me. Do you see another track rather than the one you’re on?
    A great poem that speaks deeply of what is important in life.

    • You got me, Tom: I was actually on my way to a (whisper it) job interview when I wrote this. Not a job in the city, I hasten to add, but for all that, actual full-time employment with contracts and obligations and all. Turns out (as I suspected) I don’t have the steel to take a different track: they offered me the position, and they’re really great people I would genuinely love to work with, but I just couldn’t align my head and heart on this one, so had to let it go. I’ve been freelance for 13 years now, and I’ve got used to the independence and self-determination that’s the irresistible payoff for the constant uncertainty! Glad you liked the piece, and thanks for your comments and interest, as always. N.

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