Beyond the End
In 'nature' there's no choice --
swing their heads in the wind, sun & moon
are as they are. But we seem
almost to have it (not just
It's energy: a spider's thread: not to
'go on living' but to quicken, to activate: extend:
Some have it, they force it --
with work or laughter or even
the act of buying, if that's
all they can lay hands on--
the girls crowding the stores, where light,
color, solid dreams are - what gay
desire! It's their festival,
ring game, wassail, mystery.
It has no grace like that of
the grass, the humble rhythms, the
falling & rising of leaf and star;
a constant. Like salt:
take it or leave it
The 'hewers of wood' & so on; every damn
craftsman has it while he's working
but it's not
a question of work: some
shine with it, in repose. Maybe it is
response, the will to respond--('reason
can give nothing at all/like
response to desire') maybe
a gritting of teeth, to go
just that much further, beyond the end
beyond whatever ends: to begin, to be, to defy.
"Beyond the end" announces its subject right away: the matter of choice. Levertov does not present a cosmology or a model of the mind so much as an expansive call to action, to energy - exuberance is beauty, blake says, and this poem seems to say so as well. In her zeal to extend energy everywhere, the poet even includes girls shopping as an expression of will, some kind of old English wassail, festival.
The poem addresses the question: is there something that makes humans more than natural, more than flowers swaying to some stimulus, rooted and planted? Perhaps, she suggests, we should rather be as unattached as a spider flying on its thread, flinging ourselves into the blue. And then to refine that image, carry forward "the will to respond," a kind of readiness, or axis perhaps, that holds one together inside. Water pressure inside, the power of oceans concentrated, fiercely joyfully waiting.