Friday, October 16, 2009


A chip, in floating down a stream,
Indulged a gratifying dream:

"All things on earth but only I
Are bound by stern necessity-

"Are moved this way or that, their course
Determined by some outer force.

"The helpless boughs upon the trees
Confess the suasion of the breeze.

"The stone where it was placed remains
Till loosened by the frost or rains.

"The animals go here and there
As circumstances may declare.

"The influence they cannot see
Is clearly visible to me.

"Yet all belive they're governed still
By nothing but their solemn will.

"Deluded fools! I-I alone
Obey no forces but my own.

"Without or sail or oar, I glide
At pleasure to the ocean's tide.

"No pow'r shall stay me till I lave
My body in the salt sea wave.

Just then an eddy's gentle strength
By hardly half a finger's length,

His chipship drew aside. Said he;
"'Tis far indeed to reach the sea."

Now more and more, behold him swerve
Along the eddy's outer curve.

He says: "My joy in swimming's o'er
I'm half inclined to go ashore."

As still he sweeps his arc,
He adds: "The day is growing dark,

"But still there's time to reach, no doubt,
The point for which I first set out."

The circle was completed quite.
"Right here," he said. "I'll pass the night."

Nor ever once that chip suspected
That ought but he his course deflected.

Free-will, O mortals, is a dream:
Ye all are ships upon a stream.
2009 Update: The iron shackling each to his or her own failures, felonies and follies.


the amoeba said...

Is my ball-and-chain that obvious?!? (earworm from Les Misérables: "Work Song".

FREE WILL, n. Pro bono estate planning.

k. riggs gardner said...

Failure, fear, felonies, follies, iron shackles, panic, tragedies. ...

Good lord. Will it never end?

Ariel the Thief said...

Free-will means to let your will free.

Jim said...

I don't know about free-will except in religion. Nevertheless and excepting for that religious doctrine I don't care because I am my own free-spirit.

Jim said...

A note to Doug. In the next to last line of your poem,
"Nor ever once that chip suspected,"
did you mean 'that chap suspected?'
I've searched quite a bit, the closest I could come (if you meant the word as listed) and wanted to use that word, then it means chip, a worthless piece of wood.
Concluding then it would be chip, an allegorical usage for a worthless, drifting with the flow fellow, and not a 'free-willed' person. Thus it is fitting just fine after all.
I like your poem, for me it is about the best of yours I've seen here lately.
I Googled some of the lines, you are the only reference that comes up--good work, Doug!

Tom & Icy said...

I guess that a will is when you give everything you have away for free.

Unknown said...

Save the dolphins! Free Willy! Now!

grulef: just for laughs

Logophile said...


No, "I am the captain of my fate" here today.
Whitman would be crushed.

Doug The Una said...

Amoeba, I don't think I'd heard that. But I was traumatized trying to read the unabridged version. Look down! Look down!

Good wish, Karen.

That's a particularly vampirish perspective, Ariel.

Amen, brother Jim. The poem is, of course, Ambrose Bierce's. I think you got the sense right and I agree about the quality.

That's it, Icy.

K, nobody is freer than Willie.

Lutheran, Logo, but close enough.

Nessa said...

Price sounds good to me.

sauerkraut said...

Failure - one of the fews things free will allows any of us to actually own.

sauerkraut said...

btw - my name is willie and I am free.

that is, until the mortgage becomes due, the taxes are past due and the wife calls me to bed.

quilly said...

Free will? You mean they've rescinded death taxes?

Omnipotent Poobah said...

free-will - The behavior that prevents you from getting a free lunch.

TLP said...

We don't get to chose our race, our nationality, our sex, our parents. Otherwise, we have total free will. Unless you count talent and IQ. And good looks. But other than that, we get to choose what we are and can do. Well, there's the random drunk driver who kills you in the legal crosswalk you chose to walk in, but other than that...

TLP said...

I chose to type "chose" for "choose" in the first sentence.

Anonymous said...

free will
then there is also
will of god
will of the state
etc etc etc etc
seven paths
for the most part
same goal(survive)

extremist elements
in all camps...

as for me
i say a
a day
keeps a
felony away..

just as i did,willing
enter this site
i now shall exit


word verf..nonstil--busted by feds

Cooper said...

I kind of like this poetic venture into the philosophical and it mirrors you quite well. All I know about free will I learned from Dennett.

If not for those who think there is such a thing as free will, we'd have no one to blame.

TLP said...

Apparently you choose not to post the Saturday story. Hrmpf. That's free-will taken to the extreme.

Doug The Una said...

Nessa, I like that.

And amen, Sauerkraut. What's ours is ours.

Great line, Quilly. Nope.

And which calls us to keep looking for one, Poobah.

Sure, TLP. I suppose we're free to choose whether or not it's a tragedy when we get run over.

Bear, here's to today's misdemeanor.

Cooper, I didn't write the poem, but I typed it. I suppose in that way it reflects me.

TLP, my internet chose not work this morning. Looks to be out until tomorrow afternoon. But I chose to go to Starbucks for the wireless so I could post and prevent you from getting grumpy.

Hobbes said...

Good poem.