Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road Marking #1

In September I'm making a trip to Ndola in Zambia. My visit is timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Dag Hammarskjold's death in a plane crash there - or just 10km outside Ndola. I'm doing some research on the life of Hammarskjold for a book, and of course I'd like to see where he died. And, for a reason not entirely clear to myself, I'd like to visit the site on the anniversary of the crash.

In the weeks leading up to that journey, I will post some road markers on this blog, or mementos from the final weeks of his life. The first comes from his July 6, 1961 entry in Markings, his journal of reflections that was published in Swedish as Vagmarken, or Road Markers, in 1963, and later translated into English by the poet W H Auden, like Hammarskjold a hero of mine.

Here is a part of the poem that Hammarskjold wrote fifty years ago today:

And lonely,
So tired
The heart aches.
Meltwater trickles
Down the rocks
The fingers are numb,
The knees tremble.
It is now,
Now, that you must not give in.

On the path of others
Are resting places,
Places in the sun
Where they can meet.
But this
Is your path,
And it is now,
Now, that you must not fail.

(Markings, p. 175)

I suppose I am hoping to "meet" Hammarskjold in Ndola, or at least meet something that he left there. Unlike him, I am not an accomplished mountain walker, but I think I understand the metaphor in verse one about climbing, or holding on when the knees tremble. I'm sure we all do. And I very much like the idea of encountering other walkers' resting places, even if it is only for a moment, before you eventually have to make the track your own.