Paths of History

This is a poem dedicated to all those who, like me, love walking. I particularly like the freedom that using one’s own physical resources gives, whether it be in country or town on path or road, and I have done so for as long as I can remember. But, of course, this essential freedom has been so important to me over these last few months – having partially deprived of it for years – that it has merited several poems. This one touches on the feeling of history one gets because the act of walking that has been an available means of transport since the human first stood on hind legs.

Paths of History 

We who walk by path and lane

Should reflect on the millions who have passed before

When there was no bus, no car no train

Picture the soldiers marching to war

There a man hunched by heavy sack

Here a woman with broken back

When no engines on the roads made roar

And only birds by air could soar

Here we, the so-called modern man

Walk for no purpose except for pleasure

Neither in search of food nor to a deadline plan

Practising an activity for our own leisure

That in the past was the domain of so few

Which, through common wealth, the many now do

As aircraft above leave vapour trails

So vessels of the past used wind and sails

Not long ago, this narrow world seemed vast

Where human feet beside animals stood

While the weary waved, the impatient squeezed past

Those carts propelled by wheels of wood

Transports of delight they were surely not

Yet travellers, then, accepted their lot

Criteria change with time – it’s so strange how

What was normal once is poverty now

Human beings to prosper have always migrated

By day, by night, every month or year

By booted foot or by wheel rotated

Through spatial movement we overcame our fear

Of all that was beyond our bounds

Even foreign tongues and different sounds

We may well wonder how we might now manage

To carry, by hand, our personal baggage

We think ourselves, now, so enlightened

Being educated formally from the age of four

Yet our ancestors were never frightened

To sell their wares from door to door

To talk to strangers that passed them by

They bowed not the head nor avoided the eye

They walked and talked about things unread

Along these paths of history we tread