Some of you have surely traced your family history back into the long ago. The following might ring a bell with you:
THE FAMILY TREE
We are told that nothing around us
can be understood unless we know
what has gone before, what led us
to where we are, and how and why.
So we devour the stacks of books
that relate the fascinating tale
of dreadful wars that no one wanted,
of flight in search of a better life.
We are then led, some uf us,
to go beyond the general story
to look for the part, however small,
our forefathers played on this stage.
The trail takes us back, first of all,
to the generation of our parents
and to the way of the world in their time;
then on, and on, as far as the record goes.
Often, we bump up against a wall,
seemingly impenetrable, but if we
persevere, we may pick up the thread
in some wholly unexpected place.
Some remote cousin may emerge
and produce evidence of a birth,
a death, a marriage, that opens up
a path known only to a very few.
Going back along the family line
gives new meaning to what might
otherwise be nothing much beyond
a recitation of place-names and dates.
It gives new meaning to an old war
if one knows that a man with his name
was among those in uniform alongside
Grant, or Pershing, or Washington.
It may even help to explain the way
we behave, that much of what we
do may be traceable to a genetic pattern
established in the distant past.
Whatever we learn, whether we turn up
statesmen or horse thieves,
we can be thankful that the line leads
down to where we are today.
-- Francis B. Kent