Time, Real and Imaginary

On the wide level of a mountain’s head,

(I knew not where, but ‘twas some faery place)

Their pinions, ostrich-like, for sails out-spread,

Two lovely children run an endless race,

A sister and a brother!

This far outstripp’d the other;

Yet ever runs she with reverted face,

And looks and listens for the boy behind:

For he, alas! is blind!

O’er rough and smooth with even step he passed,

And knows not whether he be first or last.


I happened to glance past this allegory, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and it certainly provoked some thought.

The setting of this poem happens to be the wide level, or flat surface of a mountain’s head. Coleridge says he knows not where, but that it was some faery place, which leads me to understand it to be somewhere deep inside the mystical void of his very own mind, his imagination.

The poet brings to the table, an image, that abounds with tranquillity, two children, brother and sister, running an endless race. The race is endless, ceaseless, as we all know that time doesn’t stop, not for anyone, anything, in any place. It is continual (do not let Marvel movies fool you).

We read on to find out, that the girl has outrun her brother. The girl here, refers to the imaginary time, future, as mentioned in the title. She outpaces the present, real time, the boy.

The girl looks and listens for the boy whom she had outstripped, for only the future has the power to look at the present, and consequently the past.

Perhaps this race is also referred to as endless, for the present can never be leading, before future itself. It is like the present keeps running toward the future, and the future keeps running ahead. They never meet

It is almost like that one speech Matthew McConaughey gave on winning the Oscar for Best Actor, where he spoke about how when somebody once asked him who his hero was, he said, ‘It’s me in 10 years.’ When he was asked about it after ten years, he said his hero was him ten years from then. So, you chase the future, but by the time you get there, future’s run ahead.

Nevertheless, future looks back at the present, with reverted face, for she knows the boy is blind. The boy is blind, for the present has not the power to foresee, it simply goes on, unaware of its position. The present just goes on the same, unable to foretell whether his path holds obstacles, or whether it is smooth. For the present, life just goes on.