Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop
Questions of Travel Exploration Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink. (30-34)
Now the list of delightful things grows. The speaker would have been sad to miss out on the beautiful trees and their strange gestures. She's starting to think about all of the things she would have missed out on if she stayed at home, and maybe it's all those little things that are reason enough to get up off your couch and go get a stamp in your passport.
—Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages. (47-52)
Here the speaker thinks back on the mismatched tones of the clogs and the ornate birdcage. They're not just beautiful and delightful. These things inspire her to think about some pretty deep stuff. When you travel, you get to make surprising connections between things. New experiences allow you to connect clogs and birdcages, and who knows what else. Maybe that's the real reason we take to the open road.
"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?" (60-67)
Despite the fact that she's listed a whole lot of good things to come from her world exploration, the conclusion of the poem is still up in the air. (Though, to understand why we hypothesize that the poem ends on a pro-travel note, check out what we've got to say in "Summary".) Bishop refuses to give us any easy answers to her questions about world travel. Foiled again!