The Heart is a Lonely Hunter


This line occurs to me as when I feel like expressing a particular kind of mood. The words resonate with how I feel, but I confess I’ve never seen the movie…or read the eponymous Carson McCullers novel on which it was based…or read the Fiona McLeod* poem on which that was based.

I’m in that mood now; tired of not knowing what it means, I’ve done a little research and learned a little bit. (These are opinions from the poem/novel/movie, not objective facts.)

The heart is, at its core, a restless thing.
It’s driven by what it doesn’t have; its greatest desire is always located just beyond the horizon.
It roams the world, prowling for the things that will satisfy its insatiable craving.

The heart is a hunter.

The hunt is, necessarily, a solo one.
No two hearts are the same; no two hearts hold the same objects of desire, or desire to seek them out in the same ways.
While we are all on the hunt for something, each one of these infinite hunters is alone in its search.

The heart is a lonely hunter.

After some reflection, I have to say that the meaning of the phrase mostly bears out how I feel when I’m thinking of it. My own feeling contains an extra element. Something along the lines of the search being necessarily vain: I may be a lonely hunter, my heart seems to say to me, but I’m also not going to stop, I will be restless until the end of my days.

It’s not a permanent feeling; it comes and goes, and is gone more often than not. But it visits me from time to time, and now that I understand it a bit better, I don’t know how I feel about having it. Do I need to feel unwhole to feel alive? Will I forever be moving towards “over there”?  What does that say about me? Is that even what this feeling really means? Questions without answers, yet.

The link below is to a cover of a currently-popular song that goes along in feeling with the poem, and the novel, and the movie. Only 22 people have listened to it. I encourage you to be number 23. The pair did a good job with the music, and the singer’s subtle accent is seductive.

gomez-garcia heart wants what it wants

Fiona McLeod

Green branches, green branches, I see you beckon ; I follow !
Sweet is the place you guard, there in the rowan-tree hollow.
There he lies in the darkness, under the frail white flowers,
Heedless at last, in the silence, of these sweet midsummer hours.

But sweeter, it may be, the moss whereon he is sleeping now,
And sweeter the fragrant flowers that may crown his moon-white brow :
And sweeter the shady place deep in an Eden hollow
Wherein he dreams I am with him — and, dreaming, whispers, ” Follow ! ”

Green wind from the green-gold branches, what is the song you bring?
What are all songs for me, now, who no more care to sing?
Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Green is that hill and lonely, set far in a shadowy place ;
White is the hunter’s quarry, a lost-loved human face :
O hunting heart, shall you find it, with arrow of failing breath,
Led o’er a green hill lonely by the shadowy hound of Death?

Green branches, green branches, you sing of a sorrow olden,
But now it is midsummer weather, earth-young, sunripe, golden :
Here I stand and I wait, here in the rowan-tree hollow,
But never a green leaf whispers, ” Follow, oh, Follow, Follow ! ”

O never a green leaf whispers, where the green-gold branches swing :
O never a song I hear now, where one was won’t to sing
Here in the heart of Summer sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

*Fiona McLeod was the nom de plume for an author named William Sharp. He enjoyed critical success under both names during his lifetime; the dual identity was not revealed until after his death.

— Posted on 4 November 2015 at 8:12pm by

Comments (1)

  1. Viscouse Reply

    4 November 2015 at 9:15pm

    Whenever I’m in a position of chasing something, I’m reminded that if it is a chase worth pursuing, it is the journey that matters, not the destination. After all, in some cases the destination is perfection. The journey to perfection is a not an exercise in futility, but rather in improvement.

    Discovering and recognizing the journey was one of the first things we had in common with each other.

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