Poetism Commentary: "What Lies In Wait"

The poem in question: What Lies In Wait

There is a great jump in time from Accepting Denial to What Lies In Wait–just over two years. By this time I was in my junior year, had my first (and only) high-school sweetheart, and had an English teacher who both hated my best friend Ben and me, and had not a clue what good poetry was (in this way, she was similar to our sophomore math teacher). More detail on this will be brought to light in the upcoming commentaries for The Poem Within A Poem, Pretense, and A Dream.

What Lies In Wait takes a theme I explored in a few other poems, most similarly Can’t Run: the captive power of the devil. Thinking back, I believe that the aforementioned sweetheart and I had broken up by this point, having only gone out for a couple of months. During and after the time we were dating, however, I had started to desire some changes in my life, and I often thought about this theme (though admittedly not as often as more depressing and morbid ones, depressed-morbid-wannabe that I am).

In What Lies In Wait a group of people are being herded toward their final resting place, having surrendered their freedom and now beginning to understand the full import of said surrender.

The tainted light shining from afar / Was fainter than a noonday star

Satan’s power is tainted, obviously, and quite faint compared to the power of God.

Yet fear tried to hold them at bay / Fear of what must, in wait, lay.

Though Satan has little power in comparison, once one is solely in his power with no recourse, it is quite terrifying.

Driven they were, against their will / Driven they were, by force so great / And that is what made them press on

They did not want to go, once they realized what would await them, but they had no more choice.

And when allowed to raise their eyes / The air was pierced with frightened cries.

This poem ends somewhat abruptly, as “Accepting Denial,” but the difference is that I think it works here. Not knowing what the final revelation is, in this case, useful, because it lets the reader make full use of his imagination.

Now, one problem with this interpretation is that they were herded “Throughout the night, into the dawn” and “By midday next they’d reached the place.” Another being “herded at deadly pace.” If these people go to their final resting place, as it were, do measurements of time really apply? They don’t, really, and I am bothered a little bit by the wording. Also, why is it on a hill? If I were to rewrite the lines at this moment, the new verse would go something like this:

They were driven, against their will,
Toward the source of every ill.
They were driven by force so great
It could crush them with its mighty weight.
And that is what made them press on:
Realizing hope was gone.
All too soon they reached the place
Where they’d been led through time and space,

I hadn’t intended to do such a thorough analysis of this poem, much less rewrite some of the lines, but I’m glad I did. I knew this commentary this was a good idea for someone.

And yes, there’s no air in space, boo hoo.

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